When a shipowner is found dead, tied to a bed in one of Reykjavik’s smartest hotels, sergeant Gunnhildur Gisladottir of the city police force sees no evidence of foul play but still suspects things are not as cut and dried as they seem. And as she investigates the shipowner’s untimely – and embarrassing – demise, she stumbles across a discreet bondage society whose members are being systematically exploited and blackmailed. But how does all this connect to a local gangster recently returned to Iceland after many years abroad, and the unfortunate loss of a government laptop containing sensitive data about various members of the ruling party? What begins as a straightforward case for Gunnhildur soon explodes into a dangerous investigation, uncovering secrets that ruthless men are ready to go to violent extremes to keep.
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.
Visit the author’s website here: http://graskeggur.com
(With thanks to Constable & Robinson for the advance reading copy)