SPRING THAW by S.L. Stebel


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Stebel (The Collaboration: mainstream novel; The Vorovich Affair: thriller; The Shoe Leather Treatment: biography) now turns his hand to horror with a high-strung ghost story set in a stormy Arctic land. Narrator Jason Melman has taken over the helm of the Seljegerena from his ailing father, Johann, and is sailing the 200-ton vessel to hunt seals off Greenland when a storm rocks the ship, shaking loose an old map of seal-inhabited islands charted by Johann decades ago. Over the objection of old-salt Tor, who refuses to talk about the visit he paid with Johann to those islands--the Mirabelles--Jason sets sail for them. There, he and his crew find a village of mostly surly natives, including a man who mistakes Jason for Johann and yells, "You dare to return?" On the first day of the seal hunt, chaos rules when a hunter breaks his leg and claims that "She"--whom no one else saw--"tripped me." "She," Jason learns at the local pub, may be Mirabelle--a lovely woman involved long ago in a fatal love-triangle with Johann, and now rumored to be the seals' guardian spirit. Lost the next day in a blizzard, Jason is rescued by Mirabelle--seemingly flesh and blood--who takes him to her hut, tends him, and makes love to him. The next day, however, Jason finds the hut cold and cobwebbed, with Mirabelle gone. Back at the ship, he's jailed by Tot on grounds of madness; but he escapes, eventually reunites with Mirabelle, unearths his father's shameful sin of murder, and then loses Mirabelle seemingly forever--but does her soul flicker on in a lovely adolescent village girl? Old-hat ghosting, but Stebel makes as vivid use of the frozen setting as Mary Shelley, Algernon Blackwood, and many other great horror writers have done before him; and his frenetic, carefully written tale--with its piquant dash of Animal Rights--offers an engaging, if not particularly scary, diversion.

Pub Date: April 21st, 1989
ISBN: 8027-1068-9
Publisher: Walker
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