June 04, 2001 12:00 PM

by Elizabeth McGregor

A polar bear and her cub thrive in a frozen world that kills men. Starving sailors locked in by ice take off on foot to try to save themselves. A modern-day explorer searches for clues to what really happened on that lost expedition. These interconnected stories, about the real 1845 voyage of Sir John Franklin from England to the Arctic in search of a passage to the Pacific, form the body of Elizabeth McGregor’s engrossing fact-based novel The Ice Child.

The sailors’ death march is brutally realized. But the love affair between the contemporary explorer tracing the disaster and the journalist covering him is less skillfully drawn, eventually slipping into disease-movie-of-the-week cliché. But that’s a minor complaint. The Ice Child is a full-bodied work that ably spans generations and continents. (Dutton, $24.95)

Bottom Line: Chillingly good read

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