If you read my blog post from last week, you’ll know we had the pleasure of a visit from journalist, translator and crime writer Quentin Bates. Quentin has written four novels (in paperback and ebook format) and three novellas (available as ebooks only) featuring the character Officer Gunnhildur. Details are available on his website: http://graskeggur.com/
I have, and recommend the novella Winterlude. Last week Quentin kindly gave out copies of his books, and of books by Ragnar Jonasson that he had translated; I got my hands on a copy of his most recent book, Thin Ice, published by Constable (an imprit of Little, Brown Book Group) in March 2016.
Blurb (0n the back)
When two small-time crooks rob Reykjavik’s premier drugs dealer, hoping for a quick escape to the sun, their plans start to unravel after their getaway driver fails to show. Tensions mount between the pair and the two women they have grabbed as hostages when they find themselves holed upcountry in an isolated hotel that has been mothballed for the season.
Back in the capital, Gunnhildur, Eiríkur and Helgi find themselves at a dead end investigating what appear to be the unrelated disappearance of a mother, her daughter and their car during a day’s shopping, and the death of a thief in a house fire.
Gunna and her team are faced with a set of riddles but as more people are quizzed it begins to emerge that all these unrelated incidents are in fact linked. And at the same time, two increasingly desperate lowlifes have no choice but to make some big decisions on how to get rid of their accidental hostages…
Quentin told us that the germ of the idea for this book came when one of his friends lost their job on a fishing boat. The character of Magni is obviously based on that friend. He is a sympathetic character who is used by Ossi as muscle and then by Tinna Lind as a means to escape Iceland with a big pile of cash. It makes a refreshing change to read a crime novel from the perspective of the criminals, even accidental criminals like Magni.
After robbing Alli the Cornershop (also based on a real criminal, dead several years now), a major player in Iceland’s drug scene, Ossi, a small time criminal, and his hired muscle Magni, an out-of-work fisherman desperate for cash, make their escape. Except their getaway driver, Arni, turns up late and the men are forced to car jack and kidnap two women, a socialite called Erna and her daughter Tinna Lind who goes from job to job, saving up enough cash to go travelling, much to her mother’s disappointment.
The women are reported missing the next day, about the same time that Arni becomes very late indeed. His house is burnt down, with his beaten and drugged body in it. Two separate investigations are started but as information accumulates it begins to seem like their is a connection. Eventually Erna’s card is used at a petrol station and the police are able to start tracking the women and their kidnappers. They’re holed up in a closed hotel, out of fuel and running short of food.
Ossi becomes steadily more unstable, waving a pistol around and threatening to shoot people while smoking a massive amount of weed; Tinna Lind and Magni become close; and Erna hides in her bedroom. Eventually they are forced to leave the hotel as the weather breaks and head across Iceland to get a flight anywhere. The plan goes wrong, and minus Erna, the two men and Tinna Lind head south again to Reykjevik.
Meanwhile, Gunna’s son Gisla has found his dad, who disappeared before he was born and who is now dying. Gisla has two sons himself now and his new relationship with his absent father has caused old pain and anger to resurface for Gunna, near the anniversary of the death of her husband Ragnar, fifteen years previously. Balancing her family obligations with investigating a kidnapping and murder is tiring Gunna out.
I enjoyed this book; the pacing is good and the characters are fully rounded creations. I like Gunna and her officers, and have enjoyed the ageing and family development between the books I’ve read. I shall definitely try to get more of them. The story feels authentic and the tension in the hotel is palpable as the weather closes in. The pressure on the police and their frustration with getting nowhere in the investigation is well-written.
I definitely recommend these books to fans of crime fiction.