Thin Ice by Marsha Qualey



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An edge-of-the-seat adventure! - Publisher's Weekly (starred review)
 
Seventeen-year-old Arden Munro has been raised by her older brother, Scott, ever since the death of their parents 10 years earlier. He has been her only family. But now Scott too is dead--or so believe the local police and everyone in Arden's community. Arden, however, is convinced that Scott has staged his snowmobile accident and purposely disappeared. She will search until she finds him. As Arden obsessively continues her detective hunt, she is forced to examine her feelings of loss and isolation, and to finally realize that these feelings existed long before Scott's accident. Whether or not her brother reappears, where should Arden turn for the support that usually comes from family? The page-turning mystery leads to a heart-tugging conclusion that is at once hopeful and sad, piercing and satisfying.
 
EXCERPT:
 
Scott wasn’t dead, but it took Al a long time to spit that out. Babbling, sputtering, incoherent, the competent cop was hysterical about his friend’s accident. I hung up and turned to Kady and Jean. “My brother’s been hurt. He’s in the hospital in Ashland. It sounds bad.” I turned this way and that, trying to find keys, hat, boots. I managed to bump into Jean, who had started clearing the table. Carrot sticks torpedoed across the kitchen.
 
Kady lifted my key chain off its hook by the telephone. “I’ll drive, you worry.”
 
Scott was in an ER cubicle. I burst through an opening in the starched curtains, expecting bandages, tubes, blood, doctors.
 
My brother was alone, lying under a pile of blankets. His hands were thrust into the air, holding a worn magazine. Sports Illustrated, an old swimsuit issue.
 
I sat on the bed, bouncing it. He took a last look at the magazine, then let it drop on his stomach. There was a small solitary bandage just above his eyebrow.
 
“How are you? What happened?”
 
“Did you bring my clothes?”
 
“No. Was I supposed to?”
 
A snarly noise climbed out of his throat “Didn’t Al tell you?”
 
“He could barely get his name out.”
 
Scott nodded. “I guess he was still scared.”
 
“He scared me. He was hysterical. Listening to him, I thought you’d bought it.”
 
“Almost did.”
 
I picked up the magazine and riffled the pages, animating the models. Not a single size eleven. “Almost dead, but you still have the strength to ogle babes.” I dropped the magazine and it slid off the bed onto the floor. “What happened, Scott?”
 
A nurse entered the cubicle. I stepped aside as she performed nurse work. “Lookin’ good!” she said finally. “Body temp is up. Other vitals are normal. Another hour or two and I bet we let you out of here.” She turned to me. “Are you the sister?”
 
The sister. I nodded.
 
“You have a lucky brother.”
 
The snarly noise again, then: “She has a stupid brother.”
 
The nurse patted Scott’s shoulder and left. Neither of us spoke. Voices from the waiting area filtered in.
 
Scott was twenty-nine and balding. A hand-sized patch of pink scalp had extended his forehead. He’s only a few inches taller than me, with the same tree trunk solidity, and the same incongruously long, sinewy fingers. Perfect for an artist. Perfect for a mechanic. Perfect for a surgeon, which was the goal he had been pursuing when he changed his life to take care of me.
 
His hand raked the hair surrounding the pink patch, then dropped to the bed. I picked it up and squeezed. “I’ll cook tonight.”
 
He was skeptical. “Leftovers?”
 
“Anything. What do you want?”
 
He nestled down, pulling blankets up to his chin. Ruddy face, tufts of dark hair amid the hospital white. “I want my snowmobile back.”

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