The #ThinIce Blog Tour: Icelandic Noir crime writer Quentin Bates talks rough justice

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Today I’m delighted to welcome the charming Icelandic Noir crime writer Quentin Bates to the CTG blog as part of his THIN ICE Blog Tour. For this stop on his marathon tour, Quentin’s talking about the process of writing Thin Ice and rough justice.

Over to Quentin …

It’s not easy to write about Thin Ice. it was started so long ago, also finished so long ago that now I’m deep into another book and the details are starting to get hazy.

Thin Ice was started with the first couple of chapters written and then put aside while I finished something else (Summerchill, the novella that was published last year) and the Thin Ice characters gradually began to take shape in the background. Normally any time I had a long drive is when they’d start to come to life, with details scribbled down at motorway cafés.

It hinged on with Magni, the good-natured, burly, practically-minded former trawlerman down on his luck and lured into making a quick buck as hired muscle for a real criminal. That’s Össur, the wannabe crime kingpin who has the ruthless lack of scruples the role needs but not the brains, which is why he has always been angrily in the shadow of smarter criminals.

The other key characters, Erna and Tinna Lind, the two women Össur and Magni carjack when their escape to the sun goes so badly wrong, took a while to come together and there were a few false starts until the relationships between the four of them, stranded in a closed-for-winter upcountry hotel, started to gel. The alliances and animosities crystallised as hidden talents for survival appeared and the tensions ramped up over a large bag of stolen cash and the knowledge that the underworld as well as the police would be searching high and low for Össur and Magni.

I had written half the book and had no firm idea of how it would all come together before I started writing the police side of the tale. A good copper needs a respectable adversary, and once I had the bad guys in place, the parts played by Gunna and her two sidekicks, Helgi and Eiríkur, slotted in around the willing and unwilling fugitives, right up to the last fifty pages where things start to go badly wrong, or right, depending on your point of view.

I do like a good villain, but a decent villain can’t be entirely bad. There has to be something in there that you can sympathise with, as one-hundred-per-cent evil people with no redeeming features don’t exist. Or do they? Or are they just extremely rare?

Magni’s no genuine bad guy, just someone who agrees to do something stupid after a run of bad luck and a few beers. Össur really is bad, but with a past like his and the old trauma that makes him sweat with fear every time he sits in a car, the reader gets an insight into why he’s as screwed up as he is.

The bad guys are the ones who are fun to write. They can range from outright evil to mildly flawed, with every kind of variation between the two extremes and can go off on odd tangents, while the sleuths need to be fairly sensible – well, most of the time. That’s not to say I’m not deeply fond of my rotund heroine (even though I give her a rough time of it) and her colleagues and family, because I am. But a good villain and a crime is what sets the ball rolling.

I also like a villain who gets away with it. That’s the way things happen in real life as criminals all too frequently get away with the goods and live happily ever after, especially if they can afford good lawyers. I know that’s not to everyone’s taste and a majority of readers like to see justice being done. So while I also like to dish out justice, the form it takes might take you by surprise.

So is there justice in Thin Ice? Do the bad guys get off scot-free or does Gunna get her man? Let’s just say there’s some justice done, but it’s not what you might expect.

THIN ICE is published now. Here’s the blurb: “Snowed in with a couple of psychopaths for the winter … When two small-time crooks rob Reykjavik’s premier drugs dealer, hoping for a quick escape to the sun, their plans start to unravel after their getaway driver fails to show. Tensions mount between the pair and the two women they have grabbed as hostages when they find themselves holed upcountry in an isolated hotel that has been mothballed for the season. Back in the capital, Gunnhildur, Eirikur and Helgi find themselves at a dead end investigating what appear to be the unrelated disappearance of a mother, her daughter and their car during a day’s shopping, and the death of a thief in a house fire. Gunna and her team are faced with a set of riddles but as more people are quizzed it begins to emerge that all these unrelated incidents are in fact linked. And at the same time, two increasingly desperate lowlifes have no choice but to make some big decisions on how to get rid of their accident hostages …”

To find out more about Quentin Bates and his books pop on over to his website at www.graskeggur.com and follow him on Twitter @graskeggur

You can buy THIN ICE from Waterstones here, or from Amazon here

And be sure to check out all the fabulous stops on the THIN ICE Blog Tour …

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CTG Reviews: Summerchill by Quentin Bates

Summerchill cover image

Summerchill cover image

What the blurb says: It’s the tail end of a hot summer when half of Reykjavík is on holiday and the other half wishes it was. Things are quiet when a man is reported missing from his home in the suburbs. As Gunna and Helgi investigate, it becomes clear that the missing man had secrets of his own that lead to a sinister set of friends, and to someone with little to lose who is a fugitive from both justice and the underworld. It becomes a challenge for Gunna to tail both the victim and his would-be executioner, racing to catch up with at least one of them before they finally meet.”

This pacey novella is a perfect weekend read. Published this month, it continues Quentin Bates’ popular Icelandic detective series and, at 142 pages, is a perfect stop-gap to tide you over until his next novel comes out.

The story focuses on Logi, a carpenter (amongst other things!) who finds himself doing a job for some people who turn out to be rather dodgy. As one incident leads to another Logi finds himself getting deeper into trouble and is soon forced to take some dramatic actions of his own.

As their investigation for the missing man encounters dead ends and non co-operative witnesses Gunna and Helgi have to draw on all of their resources to piece together what has happened. The story thunders along as both criminals and police race to locate their target before its too late.

Although the story follows Gunna and Helgi’s investigation, it’s more about the criminal underworld lurking beneath the surface of Reykjavík. It immerses the reader into the world Logi becomes drawn into, highlighting some of the illegal practices and the ways in which criminal gangs extort money from the vulnerable and unsuspecting.

Recommended for fans of Icelandic noir and police procedurals.

You can find out more about Quentin Bates by hoping over to his website at www.graskeggur.com and follow him on Twitter @graskeggur

You can also read a guest post by Quentin Bates on his experiences in translating Icelandic Crime fiction here

 

 

 

 

Review: Come the Fear by Chris Nickson

Come the Fear book cover

An atmospheric and chilling historical mystery

“March, 1733. Richard Nottingham, Constable of the City of Leeds, joins others trying desperately to put out a fire in an empty house before it destroys the entire street. The next morning, searching the blackened ruins, he finds the charred corpse of a girl, and something placed on her chest. Had the fire been started to conceal her murder?

Starting with just a single clue, Nottingham his deputy John Sedgwick and Rob Lister slowly piece together the girl’s past, a journey that takes them into the camps of the homeless, the homes of rich merchants, down to the poor and those beyond hope, deep into the dark secrets and lies that families keep hidden.”

I have to admit that I’ve not read much historical crime fiction, so this book was a bit of a first for me.

It’s the fourth book in Chris Nickson’s Richard Nottingham series. And, although it’s part of a series, I found it easy to get into the story having not read the books that precede it.

What I particularly enjoyed about this book was the way in which the multiple plot-lines crossed and then joined together. The gruesome discovery of the murdered girl in the burnt-out house is the main story, but through the eyes of the main characters the reader also discovers what it was like to police the city of Leeds during the period. Nottingham, Sedgewick and Lister encounter troubles with prostitution, theft (and thief-takers) and violent crime, and it’s through how they deal with these challenges, and the issues that they face in their personal lives, that the reader gets an insight into what it must have been like to live in those times, to have a relationship with someone outside the social class society deemed appropriate for you, to raise a family, and to cope with the joys and the tragedies that living in that period made commonplace.

Nickson paints a rich picture, conjuring the sights, smells and sounds of the period through his vivid narrative. That said, the novel moves with a quick pace and, as the reader uncovers the clues and events with the main characters, you’re soon swept up in the story and in trying to work out who did it and why.

Come the Fear gives a fascinating glimpse into life and crime in the 1730s, as well as providing an engaging mystery for the reader to unravel alongside Constable Richard Nottingham and his team.

Highly recommended.

Come the Fear is published by the Crème de la Crime imprint of Severn House on 30th August 2012 (UK) and in November 2012 (USA).