One of the earliest thriller writers that got me hooked on the genre was Alistair MacLean. Granted that was a very long time ago now, but in my mind, his books always had a sort of triple threat scenario - place, weather and people. Reading THIRST by L.A. Larkin I was really struck by the similar environment, albeit with a touch more romance than MacLean would ever have countenanced. I was also struck by the characterisation of the central male protagonist. Luke Searle, maverick glaciologist, a cool, calm man much like MacLean's hero's, although slightly less cynical, and overtly more the devoted father than would have been even contemplated back in Ice Station Zebra days.
Set in Antarctica, the book provides a real sense of both the majesty and threat of such a harsh environment. Whilst there is obviously a strong environmental protection theme in THIRST it's done in a show, rather than tell fashion. This made the message all the more succinct and the scenario that the book is exploring even more sinister. There's precious little preaching going on here, but there is a sobering matter of factness about the potential that blatant, self-serving exploitation poses. After finishing the book I will confess to the smallest wish that Larkin might want to turn her attention a little more local, say somewhere in the middle of the mining areas of Australia, and take a long hard look at the effects of rampant greed ... but I digress.
Along with a very evocative setting, Larkin's got some good characters in this book. Both male and female protagonists were believable and felt extremely real. Granted there's a tad of requisite romantic tension, but it isn't all over the story, and didn't get too much in the road of what is, after all, a desperate bid for survival.
Interestingly enough Larkin has remarked that she is one of just a few female thriller writers in Australia, and looking at THIRST from that particular angle, there's nothing particularly obvious about a thriller written by a woman as opposed to those written by men that I've read lately. Perhaps the connection with his son is a little more overt in this book, but that's just pure guesswork on my part. What's important about this observation is that really, thriller fans who don't read books like THIRST just because they are written by women are crazy.