The International Writers Magazine: Review
Chilled to the Bone by Quentin Bates
Sam Hawksmoor review
This is the third Sergeant Gunnhildur Gisladottir mystery and it begins at a cracking pace and never lets up. I like that. No messing around with back story. Just accept it, a tight gritty thriller with an under-resourced cop up against vicious criminals and corrupt officials.
Quentin Bates knows his Iceland. Now recovering from national bankruptcy it has left deep scars on the psyche and economy. Gunna is faced with what at first seems an inconsequential event – a stolen laptop. What connection does it have to a dead naked rich man tied to a bed in Reykjavik’s smartest hotel? And why hasn’t she gotten around to reading the briefing on Baddo, an ex-con who has just been deported back to Iceland from Europe from where he was serving eight years?
Gunna is plagued with some domestic issues. Her wayward son is going to make her a grandmother twice over by two different girl and she isn’t yet 40. Sometimes solving crimes is a lot easier than dealing with homelife.
As the mystery deepens, she discovers her investigation is being shadowed by a mystery figure who is posing as a cop and may be a journalist, but is definitely upsetting witnesses. Gunna is chasing a mystery woman who is operating a sex scam to lure men to hotels and then rob them. It this instance it turned fatal.
The stolen laptop is causing not a little grief at the Ministry – since it contains secrets they don’t want to let out, but they won’t tell the cops what the secrets are. The young civil servant, Jori, who lost the laptop in embarrassing circumstances is forced to hire a crook to try and get it back for him. He lies to Gunna about how it was taken, but she is no fool, and the chances of finding it are virtually zero.
Gunnhildur has to weave between concentric circles to get to the truth and the body count keeps rising. Why is she always one step behind? What information is being withheld and why? And who is following whom? Almost every character is looking over their shoulders. Jori, the civil servant is certain he is being followed. But then again so is Hekla, the mystery sex-crime artiste. She thought her secret identity was safe. When she discovers her ‘client’ is dead she knows she risks being exposed.
And what of Baddo newly returned from exile. What is driving him aside from his need for money?
Sergeant Gunna as a character would be great for the next great Scandinavian TV crime series. Quentin Bates writes with growing confidence about a place and world he knows well. His female detective, Gunna is a bit out of her depth when it comes to sex crimes, but she is methodical and as she begins to realise that everything is connected we see her try to get ahead of the game. Iceland is brilliantly brought to life from high-life to low life in a plot that unpeels like an onion.
© Sam Hawksmoor April 2013
author of The Repercussions of Tomas D
Cold Comfort by Quentin Bates
Sam North review
2nd Outing for Sergeant Gunnhildur in this riveting Icelandic murder investigation. A terrific read rich in every detail.
For more about Quentin: graskeggur