Murder Mystery or Nordic Noir...?

9781849017756Frozen Out by Quentin Bates

I’ve not really read much detective fiction/thrillers so I am unused to the conventions of the genre but I enjoyed this book – the first in the Officer Gunnhildur series. It’s a story set at the height of the global credit crisis, and set in small-town Iceland. It’s a story that is bigger than just the murder of a man into an isolated harbour as it draws in corporate and political corruption.

You can tell that it’s supposed to be another thriller along the ‘Nordic Noir’ theme but I’m not sure it ever quite manages that. There are some very effective scenes that play with the lonely, and bleak isolation of the small town that mirrors Gunnhildur’s own life in many ways but at the same time it can be awkwardly pedestrian. There are a few too many scenes which for me tell too much but show me nothing as the action flits backwards and forwards between Reykjavik and Hvalvik.

I probably shouldn’t admit this as another English-born author who has written stories set in Iceland, but I found that even though Quentin Bates has apparently lived in Iceland for 10 years, I found that some of the language and narrative felt a bit too ‘English’. This is something that Hannah Kent (an Australian who only lived in Iceland for one year) managed so successful in her debut novel Burial Rites – indeed so much so that her portrait of Iceland is all too real.

I found the character of the Skandalblogger perhaps the most interesting meeting him or her only through their blog posts. I really hope that this is not the last we see of them, and that at some point we discover their real identity. I have my suspicions that we may have already have met them!