on 14 April 2013
I love Quentin Bates' Icelandic novels, but this one was challenging. It was exciting, convincing, and the plot was a good one with plenty of twists and surprises. The problem for me was getting to grips with the Icelandic names. I have read many novels set in Iceland and I understand the way their names work, but I guess that there were so many characters in this book, some of whom were using other names, that I became very confused, and at one point I had to go back to the beginning to try and trace someone through.
An elderly aunt used to make a list and description of characters to assist her when reading P D James thrillers, and perhaps I should have done that with this book. Perhaps I am becoming elderly!
That said, it is a really good book and I would (and have already) recommend it.
Chilled To The Bone is the third instalment of this gem of a series by Quentin Bates. Although not a native Scandinavian, Bates' experiences of living in Iceland, and his absorption of the history and culture illuminate his carefully constructed and utterly compelling Icelandic thrillers. As a reader I have thoroughly enjoyed the books to date, and Bates is also something of a godsend for booksellers as an equally comparable recommendation for fans of Yrsa Sigurdardottir or Arnaldur Indridason, so I'm quite the fan!
I was hooked quite early on this series with Frozen Out which introduced us to the marvellous character of Police Sergeant Gunnhildur Gisladottir- a no-nonsense, witty and intelligent woman always juggling the demands of her professional and personal life. I have always been impressed by Bates' characterisation of her as he seems to have an intrinsic feel for the quirks of the female gender, and find her character consistently convincing. She is defined by her professionalism and absolute determination to get to the heart of the investigation, but carries an aura of calmness and self-deprecation which instils confidence in her colleagues and victims alike. Throughout this case, Gunnhildur once again draws on her inherent ability to detect a crime below the surface of the ordinary, and to adopt a terrier-like tenacity in the face of some powerful and influential individuals. As for Gunnhildur's private life, I particularly liked the more personal slant of this book as she is greeted with the prospect of `double' grandmotherhood through the sexual shennanigans of her son, Gisli, who has conveniently buggered off back to sea, leaving his mother to deal with his expectant women! As with Bates' previous books, there is a wonderful unforced humour throughout, giving the book a lighter feel than some of its Scandinavian counterparts, but achieving an effective balance with the gripping murder investigation.
Opening with a really quite amusing death by bondage and a thieving dominatrix, Bates then allows the story to ripple out to expose some serious weaknesses and ineptitude within government departments as a laptop containing politically sensitive material disappears. Gunnhildur is tasked with the investigation of both, but as the case unfolds some very nasty secrets come to light, and she discovers she is not alone in her quest, as a shady and threatening individual is equally keen to get his hands on the errant laptop. What unfolds is a well-paced and consistently engaging story that travels nicely along with no irritating inconceivable plot twists or coincidences giving rise to a entirely satisfying police procedural. A good recommendation if you like a slice of Scandi crime with a good plot, a twist of wry humour and an engaging and plausible detective.
I've been so looking forward to catching up with Officer Gunnhildur. Chilled To The Bone by Quentin Bates is number three in the series of Icelandic murder mystery stories that feature Gunna as the lead character. Frozen Out (2011) and Cold Comfort (2012) are the first two books, you can read my thoughts about those here.
Chilled To The Bone was published by Constable & Robinson's crime imprint C&R Crime on 18 April 2013. Although this is number three in the series, it could be read as a stand alone, but personally I would advise anyone to start with the first novel.
Sergeant Gunnhildur Gisladottir finds herself heading up what starts as a fairly straightforward investigation. A local businessman is found dead in a hotel bedroom, there is no evidence that this was a murder but as Gunna makes more enquiries, she finds herself slap-bang in the middle of something that is beginning to get dangerous. It appears that there is a bondage ring operating in the city. It seems that this is not the first time a wealthy businessman has been found in an incriminating position in an upmarket hotel yet people are loathe to speak out - they seem very scared. At the same time, local Government officers are making a fuss about a mislaid laptop, putting pressure on Gunna and her department to pull out all the stops to find it.
Quentin Bates has produced an intricate, finely plotted detective story which has some really menacing undertones. Gunna is an amazing lead character; realistic and bold, with secrets of her own that yet again Bates has refused to fully disclose. There is something compelling about this character, she has a history that is very slowly being revealed throughout the series in snippets and leaves the reader wanting to know what? why? how?
As in both of the previous novels, I do sometimes become a little muddled by the long, and quite strange looking Icelandic names of the character - but of course, for realism, they have to be included, and as the story progresses the reader does get to know the lead players very well.
A fast-paced crime novel, with great characters, a clever plot and a smattering of humour. Bring on the next instalment!
on 13 March 2016
Another five star mystery set in a bone freezing Iceland with the warm, witty Gunna in charge. Good police procedural. I am getting to know all Gunna's colleagues and enjoying details of her private life which never gets in the way of her cracking the case. If you are looking for nail biting tension this is not for you but if you like a satisfying well thought out story then read on. I am looking forward to the next Gunna. I know it will be a pleasure.
on 1 March 2015
This is a decent series of novels by Quentin Bates. For an island of only 400,000 people Iceland is hotbed (no pun intended) of serious crime and perfidious public servants. This novel begins with the discovery of the body of one of Iceland's older shipping magnates dead in bed in an upmarket hotel in Reykjavik. However this is not just a sad case of someone dying peacefully in his sleep, he is naked, spreadeagled on the bed, tied hand and foot, and a ball gag in his mouth. Not what a prestigious hotel chain wants to boost its public image.
Gunnhildur (Gunna) is the officer in charge of this investigation and she soon finds herself in a very complex investigation which involves the heavy hand of civil service interference in her investigation. There is an international aspect to the story and soon there are more deaths which are clearly murder. The time-line from the discovery of the dead businessman until the completion of the investigation is just 7 days but they are very busy days for Gunna. One chapter of the book is devoted to each busy day.
At the start of chapter 1 there are a lot of apparently unconnected paragraphs setting the scene for each of those who will become players in this story. You will get a lot of Icelandic names thrown at you and that can be off-putting but stick with it and you will soon get to know who is who and in what camp (even if a lot of the names seem to start with 'H'.)
I got into the plot and enjoyed it. I liked the idea of the first crime which led to the death of the shipping magnate. It is not without humour, and I found myself rooting for most of the baddies in this story (with a couple of notable exceptions only) at some time during the story. It was interesting how someone who had been built up to be a culprit was viewed in a different light when compared to some of those out to get them. Maybe I lost my moral compass. Even the title of the book took on a different meaning as I read the book.
During that busy week Gunna received some family news which excited her at first and then appalled but that part of the story is left hanging until the next book which I will be reading.
An engaging blend of blackmail, sexual mischief, coldly calculated murder and a solid police procedural, this Icelandic investigation combines a well-woven plot with a cast of intriguing characters. Sergeant Gunnhildur, the resolutely down-to-earth pragmatist, is the anchor around whom the storyline revolves, and she’s currently one of the most interesting female investigators in crime fiction.
Gunna however, doesn’t hog the limelight. She’s frequently in the wings, while the entertaining supporting cast take centre stage. There’s the part-time dominatrix who’s turned a hobby into a profitable sideline. A dipwit narcissist civil servant who’ll do almost anything to recover his missing laptop. His bullying boss, driven by terror of political humiliation. Best of all is Baddo, a time-served ex-con who’s been banged up abroad and has every reason to steer clear of coming home, but reluctantly returns to Iceland. Baddo is acres more interesting than your average rent-a-thug, a brooding, intelligent and effective menace who plainly has an interesting past – and who makes faster progress with his illegitimate investigation than the police do with their attempts.
Amid the chilly slither of slushy ice, Bates also conveys quiet moments of social commentary in non-judgmental fashion. These are deftly delivered without slowing the pace or detracting from the plot – they are simply a part of the story, just as much as the sturdy, matter-of-fact nature of the Icelandic characters. When some investigators might turn to drugs, booze or self-indulgent misery, Gunna and her fella spar with affectionate wit; Bates totally nails the dialogue between a loving, comfortable couple.
His writing is less quirky and more accessible than some Nordic authors (although you will need to be able to cope with Icelandic names if you’re to keep track of the cast). Although ‘Chilled’ unflinchingly portrays callous violence, it doesn’t submerge the reader in the overwhelmingly claustrophobic, stifling atmosphere so typical of Scandinavian mysteries. It’s written fluently and with crisp clarity, and crams multi-faceted texture into a rapid read.
This is gripping fiction, with a wicked villain and a marvellously robust female protagonist, but it feels only a step removed from the real world. After being somewhat ambivalent about the first book in this series, I’m now eagerly anticipating the next…
There's more detail on the plot and characters over at murdermayhemandmore.net
I have been reading this series from the start and it is going from strength to strength. In this one there is quite a complicated plot starting with a dominatrix who ties up her victims and robs them which then leads to the hunt for a missing government laptop by various different people. The police always seem to be a few steps behind everyone else as their information gathering has to be lawful.
This is an extremely well written crime novel with a very sympathetic realistic heroine, Gunna. She may be a few steps behind initially but thoroughness and common sense soon get her up to speed. I also like that she is well drawn and that her problems at home make her grumpy. The plot is clever with many strands (I needed my wits about me to keep up) which all come together nicely at the end.
With no maverick or psychotic investigators, no quirks and no attempts to out-violence the competition, this is an `old skool' police procedural - and all the better for it. Sticking to a tried and tested formula, but delivering it with skill, efficiency and pace, this follows a multi-layered investigation taking in a missing government laptop, and a sex-n-bondage hotel scam.
Gunna is a refreshingly normal investigator - she has a slightly messy personal life but nothing too outré or macabre, she gets on with all her colleagues, and she gets her job done with hard work rather than intuition or massive leaps of faith.
Despite the convoluted case, the writing here is simple and straightforward, and my only criticism is that this is a little short on atmosphere or setting - the result of Bates getting straight to the point in every scene rather than lingering on description.
So overall this is a cool and professional piece of writing: it may be cut back to the bone in terms of style, but it tells a gripping story very well.
on 22 August 2013
So refreshing to read detective fiction without a "troubled" main character. I love Gunna's straightforward outlook and that her private life has the complications typical of someone her age, which add depth to her, but aren't central to the story. The plot is complex and fascinating. I love the way the author has played with the timeline interweaving different characters points of view.
SPOILER ish: Probably my only criticism is Gunna's conversation with Sif towards the end which I felt out of characters. But then I've only read this Gunnhildur mystery so far, so maybe I'll understand her decision when I know more.
And I will be reading more!
on 22 April 2014
This is the third Gunnhilder mystery that I have read. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading all 3 but I would definitely recommend that you read them in order to get a full understanding of the characters and read them one after the other while the character names are fresh in your mind. A really good, entertaining series of books about a country - Iceland - that I have never visited and didn't know much about.