Written by: Matt Molgaard
As a fan of NBC’s, Grimm, it was nice to see John Shirley’s first Grimm tie-in novel, The Icy Touch hit the mailbox. Nick Burkhardt’s a somewhat flat Grimm, but there’s big potential in his personality. His partner, Hank is a memorable fellow himself, but Monroe, Rosalee and Sergeant Wu are interesting and truly entertaining characters. Monroe’s the story stealer, Rosalee is great as the strong-willed but compassionate herbal specialist, and Wu’s a dry humor homerun hitter fully equipped with an assortment of punchlines. It’s a nice ensemble that frequently find themselves engaged in battle with homicidal wessen. And, The Icy Touch is no exception.
The story deposits Nick, Hank, Monroe and Rosalee in the middle of war for nefarious supremacy. The Icy Touch is something of an organized wessen crime unit that uses manipulation and physical intimidation to swarm the criminal ranks. The problem for this outfit is, ironically, their successfully aggressive methods. If you’re wessen, and a member of The Icy Touch tells you you’re going to work for them, you’re going to work for them. If you opt to refuse, you dig your own grave. When the bodies begin piling up around Portland, our heroic Grimm and his band of quirky misfits are the city’s only hope and they spring into action, ready to foil the plans of The Icy Touch.
For the most part, the novel plays out as any other Grimm episode you might spot on NBC. It’s formulaic, and it never truly attempts to be bold. However, it has its moments and it has some star characters. It’s fun – in spots – and there isn’t much downtime to contend with. Those are the bulk of the positives awaiting discovery. The cons however, threaten to outweigh the pros. The characters, on page, don’t necessarily traverse the same parallel as those on screen. Monroe’s a bit too… surferish… bro. Captain Renard lacks the sympathetic qualities detectable on the small screen; Rosalee, while strong, isn’t quite the firm, pseudo-heroine we’ve come to know. There are some noticeable differences, which are likely to rub you the wrong way, if you follow the show. The decision to up the ante a tad on the language doesn’t truly jive either. Grimm is tame in dialogue. Rarely will you even hear common expletives like damn, or ass in an episode. In the pages of the novel, you’ll see shit, bitch and other, slightly more extreme words used. I have zero problem with profanity. But the addition of it, in this case, feels awkward and obviously out of place.
Another issue to take with the novel is the fact that it comes across as a rushed product. It’s so by the book and straight forward, with little in the way of layering that it almost feels as though it was written for a mid-teen range on a week-long time line. Grimm isn’t a ridiculously intricate tale to begin with, but on screen it feels as though it’s been fully explored and fleshed out; The Icy Touch feels like a freight train that speeds through an assortment of dazzling cities, but never completely stops for any one of them.
The action of The Icy Touch is a thrill. It’s exciting and it holds the attention. However the final product feels, at times, a little bit… juvenile (for lack of a better word). It’s not a thinker’s novel – which is alright, by all means – and it isn’t a wondrously original piece. This spin-off has some fine moments to offer (there’s one specific sequence, roughly midway through the novel in which Monroe delves into his background, and it works like a charm), but it’s got just as many shaky setups or missed payoffs. It’s a fair read, but it certainly isn’t mandatory.