Gunnhildur’s Travails – Thin Ice

I am continually honoured in the presence of genius in the group of Nordic noir lovers of which I am part.  This genius sources in Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Norway even Derbyshire, and, in this case, Hampshire.

The latest tale from this stable is the excellent Thin Ice from Quentin Bates. A local, homegrown talent who continues to excel with his police procedurals about Gunnhildur an officer in the Reykjavik CID.

However, this isn’t a traditional Whodunit as we start with the bad guys and follow their escape when they car-jack a mother and daughter when their getaway driver fails to be at the rendezvous. In parallel with this Gunnhildur battles with the trials of her private life. Her son has now settled with one of his girlfriends and rekindles his relationship with his now-dying father much to her dismay. Along with this, she is troubled by her two grandchildren sired by her son. The getaway driver is then found dead in a fire. Is this accidental?

The pace switches between the criminals, as a long-standing, habitual, criminal and a monster of a man and his side-kick, who doesn’t have a sheet, whilst the main bad-guy has a sheet as long as his and his sidekick’s arm. The former continually waves a gun at his captives and is unafraid to use it. The alternate thread is following Gunnhildur and her colleagues trying to track down the missing women.

The atmosphere and emotion are diverted by one of the captives, as the daughter of the pair becomes involved with the not so bad sidekick  – in this context you could call it ‘Rekjavik Syndrome.’ This adds to the suspense in the story as it leads to an unexpected outcome as a surprise as she – the daughter turns out to be as conniving and deceitful as the criminals themselves.

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I’d made a concerted effort to read all the prior novels before starting Thin Ice, as I love reading in sequence, having read Frozen Out when this blog tour was announced and was invited to contribute. As a result, of this, I had missed out on some story line and even questioned the writer about continuity who pointed me to the two novella, WinderLude and Summerchill which I read in parallel – these filled in some blanks on Gunnhildur’s family story.

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I really enjoyed reading all of these novels and I do wonder with excitement what is next for Gunnhildur. Will she get that promotion? Will her family life settle down?

Watch out for the next in the saga, but in the meantime Thin Ice stands alone as a great crime story, filled with the atmosphere and coldness that is Iceland-Noir.

I highly recommend it and please follow the rest of the blog tour both backward and forwards.

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Credits and references  – Quentin Bates – Author Page

Thin Ice Thin Ice (Gunnhildur Mystery)

Cold Comfort Cold Comfort (Gunnhildur Mystery Book 2)

Chilled to the Bone Chilled to the Bone (Gunnhildur Mystery Book 3)

Cold Steal Cold Steal (Gunnhildur Mystery Book 4)

Winterlude Winterlude (Gunnhildur Mystery)

Summerchill Summerchill (Gunnhildur Mystery)

 

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Missing in Malmo by Torquil MacLeod

Another great novel in the Anita Sundstrom series. I love this book – couldn’t stop reading it other than when my eyes gave up. I can’t wait for the next one which is due through my letter box just after Easter. 

Following on from her successes in the previous two novels set in Malmo, Anita investigates the disappearance of an heir-hunter from the UK.

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The man she loves (but won’t admit to him) is still in prison for the murder in the first book but she still visits him on the pretext of getting to the bottom of the murder he committed in England but she is reluctant to do anything about it as he would be sent back to the UK; her ex-husband turns up looking for his young student girlfriend who he unofficially reports to Anita as missing so she has two missing people – one official and one unofficial and as we know Anita can be maverick sometimes. Her son is back with her in Malmo but he’s not in the best of spirits.

Hakim is having trouble at home too – his sister is having arguments with their parents – this leads to some additional domestic intrigue when Hakim stays over at Anita’s whilst she is away working with a UK detective to try to track down the reasons why the heir hunter has been murdered – his body, missing a part of a limb, is washed-up in the Sound.

To add insult to injury the body of the ex-husband’s missing girlfriend also gets washed-up in the Sound – she has been raped and her apartment is pristine almost professionally cleaned and only the ex-husband’s prints are found in some places where others there is nothing for forensics to discover. Nordlund and Westermark are working on the murdered girl whilst, as I said Anita is over in England, working with local CID and meeting the heir hunter’s widow and trying to piece things together from what was left over – strangely, however, she is the victim of a burglary around the time of the discovery of his body.

This is a complex plot, the local detective has some baggage with a deputy chief constable whom they interview about the past crime – there was a diamond robbery some time ago which tracks back to the past and action in Australia where one of the culprits was killed by the main detective – the DCC, in fact, the closure of the case made his career. Whilst only one of the diamond heist gang is still alive in England, the other two have died but there is another twist – the hit-and-run of a local English guy.

Anita’s ex-husband is then arrested and charged with the girl’s murder but Nordland is not happy with something and starts digging again but it leads to an unhappy conclusion.

There is some personal and professional tragedy for Anita in this gripping novel but it does bring closure on both local and English fronts and an excellent climax. The culprits are found and in a gripping ending with Hakim finding the heir hunter’s murderers and Anita puts together what Nordland had found out and confront’s the real murderer.

You’ll need to read it – I highly recommend this book to any fan of good police procedurals and or course nordic crime.

Credits and references

Missing in Malmö: The third Inspector Anita Sundström mystery (Inspector Anita Sundström Mysteries Book 3)

Torquil MacLeod

 

An Event in Autumn by Henning Mankell RIP

I write this blog post with an overwhelming sense of loss! I have read every word written about Kurt Wallander and there is nothing more of him nor Henning Mankell although for those of you who follow the Nordic Noir genre they will live long in our collective psyches.

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A classic Wallander story; conflict in himself; with Linda and the world. He wants to desperately live out his days in a more relaxed environment with his love of classical music away from the stress of policing and the city. He takes the opportunity presented by Martinsson, to check out an idyllic place and in doing so he stumbles across a crime scene, in his attempt to find the place to live away from the city. This opens up the under-resourced cold-case investigation that his boss can’t support.

He is lonely and has lost his father, he needs some love. I know how that feels – how the agonising relationship between a father and son can be until one day they are no longer there. His relationship with his ex-wife – there is no longer any contact although he has now rekindled the relationship with his daughter, now a budding police officer herself, after a period of separation. She is a good thing for him if he only realises it in time.

I have felt a kindred spirit with Kurt for some time; I read ‘A Troubled Man’ recognising the signs of type II diabetes in the narrative! Time caught up with him too! One day I will find my children, again or them me, hopefully before it’s too late.

This novella – a simple plot – wasn’t a difficult read, not that any of Henning’s Kurt books are; in fact for me returning to the pages of a Wallander thriller only at the weekend it felt like I was meeting a schoolboy friend with whom I’d not spent any time for years and yet it didn’t feel like we’d been apart for days at all.

It’s Monday night in late November as I write this and ‘An Event in Autumn’ is set in the coldness of late autumn leading into winter in Ystad; snow one minute; then rain and slush! I hate this time of year – going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark!

Kurt unravels things as he usually does, as most great detectives do, by noticing things in people and in places that aren’t quite right! He does the unspeakable and walks into the jaws of a trap without calling for back-up! It all works out in the end.

You know I don’t do spoilers, but I expect most of you will have read this anyway but something in me needed to write this as most bloggers know! The melancholy of a Wallander and most critically for me is the afterword by HK himself a beautiful essay on the life he and Kurt shared! I admit to shedding a tear or maybe two.

On a lighter note I have seen Lassgard; Branagh and Krister Henriksson play Kurt and was fortunate to meet Krister in 2014 at Nordicana. He will always be my Wallander! A wonderfully humble and gracious man overwhelmed by the excitement I showed in meeting him!

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May you rest in peace Henning! Thank you for the gift and legacy you gave us.

Icelandic Intrigue… Frozen Out (Quentin Bates) and Last Rituals (Yrsa Sigurdardottir)

I am back in Iceland after a break in Finland! 

After a break of a few weeks, I have picked up the blog to bring you updates on two books I’ve read both set in Iceland and both featuring female investigators.

Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

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The international best-seller, quoted on the cover as ‘Dark, deep and icy as an Icelandic fjord… a rich and rewarding debut.‘ Mark Billingham.

I have had some time to myself recently as my readership will know, so decided to buy the first three of Yrsa’s ‘Thora’ stories. She is a lawyer by trade, divorced and dealing with kids and work. She has a much-reduced lifestyle as a result.

She gets pulled into this investigation when a German research student, Harald, is found horrifically murdered on the university campus.

Another boy has been arrested and faces an aggravated murder charge and as far as the police are concerned he did it; he can’t prove he wasn’t there, no alibi and as he has no recollection of events due to his drug and alcohol abuse neither, however, can the police prove he is complicit and are relying on his confession which he won’t give them. Harald’s family also believe the boy isn’t guilty and despatch their business ‘security’ adviser Matthew to engage Thora’s help in navigating the legal system, translating and flirting!

Thora and Matthew stumble around unearthing missing relics, documents, and rituals. It appears that Harald had a fascination with witchcraft and black magic and his research diverted him from his main thesis much to the disappointment of one of his tutors, who unfortunately had Harald’s dead body literally fall on him.

Harald’s student colleagues are wrapped up in this somewhere, but it isn’t completely clear; how can you rely on what they say when they were drunk, drugged and loved-up around the time of the death in a very busy bar.

It’s a great novel, well plotted which I have read most recently and enjoyed the interactions between Matthew and Thora as an almost amusing sideline to the novel – a little like in my opinion to the humorous dialogue between Martin and Saga in ‘The Bridge’. It’s a great ‘whodunit’ in my opinion with the traditional amateur sleuth.

I have two of the follow-on books ready to read, but there are more….

My Soul to Take

Ashes to Dust

I shall be diverting back to England for one of my next reads, but before that, I will recollect my other Icelandic adventure.

Frozen Out by Quentin Blake

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I hasten to add I bought his one at Nordicana 2015 in June when I met first Quentin – aka Greybeard (@graskeggur) on the ‘Iceland’ stand when I was buying my copy of ‘Snowblind’ by Ragnar Jonasson which he translated.

I had never read anything Icelandic until then. I felt obliged to buy ‘Frozen Out’ as the author was there and I could get it signed! I do love a signed book! I didn’t regret it, apart from making a friend, I also have a new female fictional heroine to add to my increasing list and a new author to follow.

This is the first of the Gunnhildur (Gunnar) mysteries and an enjoyable and intriguing read from my acquaintance from the Nordic genre with whom I’ve had the pleasure of breaking bread, (it was a naan actually.) 

Gunnar, as we get to know her as is the local police sergeant in fictional Hvalvik, a fishing port of Quentin’s imagination. It’s not too far to drive from Reykjavik. The book is set to the backdrop of the financial meltdown in the Nordics.

She is woken one morning by a telephone call about a body found in the harbour water. The corpse belongs to an employee of a PR firm and apparently drowned miles from where he was last seen. Gunnar is suspicious of this and sets about digging.

There are a number of other layers to this – an anonymous blogger that writes scandalous and possibly libelous reports that contain clues and references to the crimes, there is a shady unidentified man taking taxi rides from Gunnar’s cousin. This man has links to the PR company as a ‘Mr. Fixit’ and in tandem with this there is corruption in government which also has familial links to the PR company in and around the development of industry in the area.

The waters are muddied because we find out that a recent contact of the drowned man was the victim of a fatal hit-and-run accident! No one was caught. But he was very involved in a campaign group against the industrial project.

I won’t spoil the story plot too much, but we do find a lot about our central character which sets us up for the follow-on novels about Gunnar both inside and outside of her work. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel as Gunnar is a really interesting character facing a number of professional and personal challenges. Please find time in your schedule to read her (his) stories – I hope I’ve teased you enough. Here are two of the follow-on books linked below:-

Cold Comfort

Chilled to the Bone

Quentin, also know for his translation work, is English and lives not too far away from me on the south coast. His Icelandic language skills come from his time working there I believe many years ago, so he is familiar with the culture and no doubt the climate.

I’m also keen to state that he has also translated Nightblind by Ragnar Jonasson which is due out in December on Orenda Books another one from Iceland I am very much looking forward to.

I’ve been somewhat remiss since the summer so I should now endeavour to pick up and read a relatively local crime novel.

In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward 

I am eager to boast about this as I also have a personally signed hard-copy of this one from when I met Sarah at Nordicana 2015 and it’s been creeping up the list. It’s also just been published in paperback.

I will eventually put some words together on this one too!

Happy reading – there is no excuse now that it’s cold and wet and miserable in England!