What the blurb says: “When a shipowner is found dead, tied to a bed in one of Reykjavik’s smartest hotels, sergeant Gunnhildur “Gunna” 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. As she investigates the shipowner’s untimely death, 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.”
It’s easy to like Gunna, she’s strong and determined, yet compassionate and giving: a hardworking detective and a dedicated mother juggling the complexities of modern life. As Gunna starts to unravel the threads that bind a set of seemingly unconnected crimes together, she uncovers a secret community that she’d never realised existed. When a witness goes missing, the question is can Gunna find the truth, and the culprits, before the sinister man impersonating a police office does?
Told through several viewpoints, in addition to Gunna’s, over the course of the story we learn how initially unconnected events have brought the main point-of-view characters – Baddo, Hekla and Joel Ingi – to their current situation, and how, even though they may not realise it, they are bound together by the secrets they keep and the choices they have made.
The tension builds steadily throughout the story. Each character is conflicted, some are criminal, but through showing their many facets, and relationships both work and personal, Bates has a way of making each of them empathetic. I found myself caring about each of them, compelling me to keep turning the pages, hungry to find out what would happen.
I’ve never been to Iceland, but I loved the evocative imagery of this novel, and the chilling sense of cold, that made the setting really come alive for me. At first the Icelandic names took a little bit of getting used to, but they add wonderfully to the authentic feel of the story, and I was soon used to them (although I’m not sure that my pronunciation would be correct!).
This is a beautifully crafted, intricately plotted, atmospheric thriller.
[With thanks to C&R Crime for my copy of Chilled to the Bone]
- Guest post: Creative Writing, yes or no? by crime novelist Quentin Bates (morgenbailey.wordpress.com)