Quentin Bates is an author whose work you should get to know if you enjoy reading Nordic Noir. Cold Malice continues on the investigations of one of my favourite females detectives Gunnhildur Gisladottir. Gunna as she is more affectionately known is an older, no nonsense, straight talking detective. Gunna never fails to get to the bottom of whatever she is investigating with the help of her team. In this book her colleague Helgi is given a bit more of the spotlight as he uncovers the mystery of an Icelandic national who disappeared in Thailand in the boxing day tsunami of 2004. Fifteen years later things are stirred up when Helgi recognises him at the airport and starts to dig around. Gunna meanwhile is investigating the apparent suicide of a professional artist in the Icelandic countryside.
If you want the weather and the landscape in your stories then Bates delivers. In fact each chapter in Cold Malice starts with a weather forecast which helps set the mood and make the reader feel a deeper connection with the character as they move around the Icelandic landscape. If you have visited Iceland you will recognise some of the places described and you may recognise the weather too:
“…she was shielded from the morning’s buffeting wind that occasionally bullied the heavy car with wild gusts. She could see the lamp posts along the sides of the main road shivering in the wind, and white horses danced on the sea, flinging the smell and taste of brine landwards.”
(Cold Malice page 113)
As well as the natural elements Bates writes about relationships really well. He has a handle on the moody teenagers of which there are quite a few in this book. I have always enjoyed the sentences which describe how Gunna feels about her partner in his books. In Cold Malice I really enjoyed reading the descriptions of feelings that certain characters had toward their children. The descriptions are always very realistic and highlight the conflicts we sometimes feel as parents. Perhaps it is for this reason that I did not really feel a loathing for one of the main characters who was despicable in so many ways.
One of the story lines in this book delves into the art world. I enjoyed this a lot. There is so much fantastic art in Iceland that it left a lasting impression on me from my trips there. When the prices of various art works are revealed to Gunna she and the reader both understand how important the creative industries are to the economy in Iceland. Gunna literally can not believe the sums being discussed and understands why there may be financial motivations for events which have taken place. Gunna also learns that there is more to some art that initially meets the eye as she discovers more about the artist and the relationships around him.
Cold Malice shows how a split second decision can change so many lives. This applies to more than one story line in the book. There is a large cast of characters and I know some readers struggle with the Icelandic names however I would urge them to keep reading as each character does develop and become more easily identifiable as the story progresses. I sometimes find myself quickly Googling a name on my phone to see what it means or if it is a boys name or a girls name if I am unsure. In Cold Malice it was the name of boats I checked out as I was not familiar with them.
In conclusion Cold Malice is a solid read for the Nordic Noir fan. It would make a great series on TV as the characters and the tensions between them are written so well. The readers can experience the landscape, interesting plot lines, commentary on contemporary society and the motivations of those within it as well as modern police procedural work. If you want to know more about the author then please type his name into the search bar on the home page of this blog site to check out all the things he has been involved with. He is a man of many talents; a contributor on the Nordic Noir blog, a festival organiser, journalist, a translator, regular festival guest/moderator as well as an established author in this genre.
This review is part of a short book tour. You are invited to check out a few other reviews by readers over the next two weeks. The details are on the poster below. Cold Malice is published by Little Brown and is available in audio book. The paperback copy is £8.99