#BlogTour- Sólveig Pálsdóttir- Harm- tr. Quentin Bates @solveigpals @graskeggur @CorylusB

 

When wealthy doctor Ríkarður Magnússon goes to sleep in his luxurious caravan and doesn’t wake up, detectives Guðgeir Fransson and Elsa Guðrún are called to the Westman Islands to investigate what looks like murder. Suspicion immediately falls on Ríkharður’s young, beautiful and deeply troubled girlfriend – but there are no easy answers in this case as they are drawn into family feuds, disgruntled friends and colleagues, and the presence of a group of fitness-obsessed over-achievers with secrets of their own. As their investigation makes progress, Guðgeir and Elsa Guðrún are forced to confront their own preconceptions and prejudices as they uncover the sinister side of Ríkharður’s past…

Harm is the third instalment of the Ice and Crime series from Sólveig Pálsdóttir, again translated by the venerable Quentin Bates, and following on from The Fox and Silenced. Detectives Guðgeir Fransson and Elsa Guðrún return in this sensitive, and wonderfully understated Icelandic police procedural. 

I have become increasingly attached to detective Guðgeir Fransson, whose gentle and calming style of investigation is particularly in evidence in this book. He has a natural affability, disguising a sharp intellect, and solid moral code that is like a breath of fresh air in the endless trail of emotionally damaged and self-destructive male police officers that seem to inhabit much of the crime genre. He has a reasonably settled homelife, with an eminently sensible wife Inga, and his rare moments of frustration and irritability are quickly quashed in the pursuit of justice.

     His partner detective Elsa Guðrún, still coming to terms with the violent events of the previous book, is looking for some sense of spiritual peace, as well as juggling career and home life as an independent parent. However, her astuteness and natural ability to quickly get at the root of a mystery with intuitiveness and mental agility, makes her the perfect work partner for Fransson, and an engaging pairing for the reader.

     I also like their boss the mercurial and driven Særós, whose buttoned down personality, and ardent adherence to a fit and healthy lifestyle, sometimes puts her at odds with the team she oversees. She does, however, have a protective attitude to them, and offers firm support for the most part, albeit with a distanced and slightly prickly edge. 

I would say that this is quite a linear plot, but there is a real sensitivity and empathy with how it addresses the twin issues of mental health and early life trauma. There are a few incredibly damaged characters in this book, coping with their previous experiences, either by spiritual adventures in the great outdoors, a dabbling with dubious new age cures, or just by trying to resolutely soldier on at cost to their mental and physical health. Oh, and somebody resorts to murder, which is probably the more extreme option of addressing trauma. I felt a particular empathy with chief suspect Diljá, partner of the deceased, and a young woman tainted by sadness and isolation that is incredibly moving in parts of the story. Pálsdóttir paints a picture of a woman out of step with her older partner, albeit having been at first mesmerised and then disappointed by him, and having achieved financial gain but at what cost, and how she could actually escape her predicament. She is complicated and this makes her a compelling protagonist, suffocating under the weight of guilt upon, and evidence against her.

As the individuality of the characters has grown across this and the preceding books, and are becoming more familiar, they are developing very nicely into a must read Icelandic based crime series. Quentin Bates is always an adroit and confident translator, and I do enjoy the quintessential British words and phrases that he pops in, which adds to the easy flow of the book. Harm is another solid addition to the Ice and Crime series, and definitely worth checking out if Icelandic noir is your bag. Recommended.

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Sólveig Pálsdóttir has a diverse background. She’s a trained actor and has performed in theatre, television and radio. She holds a bachelor’s degree in literature from the University of Iceland along with a degree in teaching. Sólveig taught Icelandic literature and linguistics, drama and public speaking for many years and has produced a number of radio programmes and managed cultural events. Her first novel Leikarinn (The Actor) was published in 2012 to rave reviews and weeks at the top of best-sellers lists. It is now being developed as a motion picture. The second novel, Hinir réttlátu (The Righteous Ones), was published the following year, and also became a best-seller. Both novels have been published in Germany by Aufbau as Eiskaltes Gift and Tote Wale. Her third novel, Flekklaus (Pure), was published in March 2015. Her fourth book, Refurinn (The Fox) also made its way to Iceland’s best-seller list. All her novels have been shortlisted for the Icelandic Crime Fiction Awards and have been praised for their narrative, attention to detail and sympathetic characters. Fjötrar (Silenced) was published in 2019 and won the Icelandic Drop of Blood award for the year’s best crime novel, and was shortlisted for the Nordic Glass Key Award. Sólveig lives in Reykjavík and is married with three children and two grandchildren. Follow on Twitter @solveigpals

Quentin Bates dates back to the year of the Cuban missile crisis, grew up in English suburbia and escaped for a few years. The roots in Iceland run very deep and the pull of this volcanic rock remains strong. Having been a factory hand, netmaker, trawlerman, truck driver, (briefly) a teacher, he found his way into writing via a series of coincidences and has been tapping at a keyboard ever since, including writing a series of crime novels and novellas set in Iceland and translating the work of many Icelandic writers into English. Follow on Twitter @graskeggur

(With thanks to Corylus Books for the ARC)

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