Tuesday, December 07, 2010

New for the New Year: FROZEN ASSETS, an Iceland Crime Novel by Quentin Bates

The rush to translate Scandinavian fiction has made several good crime series from Sweden and Norway suddenly available in the United States. But sometimes there's no translator needed -- as with Quentin Bates, who lived for a decade in Iceland, married an Icelandic woman, but was originally from the United Kingdom and moved back there in 1990 to become a full-time journalist for a commercial fishing magazine (think small, with lots of business trips on and around boats and harbors).

When he began allocating one afternoon each week to a master's level program in writing, though, Bates also began a novel. And FROZEN ASSETS IS a good one, and will be available from Soho Crime in January -- just a few weeks from now.

A young, ambitious journalist for a tabloid, Skúli Snaedal is eager to meet Sergeant Gunnhildur. Her police team is small, rural, and rarely challenged by serious crime, in the small fishing town of Hvalvík. But she has a reputation as feisty and interesting, and Skúli's tip to interview her is a good one. On the other hand, sent to find her at a local lunch shed, he's not quite ready for salted fish and liquefied fat -- or for Gunnhildur.
The figure looked up and Skúli saw that, in spite of the broad shoulders, the solid woman with the short fair hair was not the bruiser Haddi had given him to expect. Although she would never be a beauty, she had an angular, handsome face that radiated authority. He wondered briefly if this was natural, or the product of a police career. ...

"You must be Gunnhildur?"

She nodded, scraping the bottom of the soup plate. "Known to every man and his dog as Gunna the Cop," she corrected. "And you must be the lad from Dagurinn. I suppose Haddi told you I'd be here, did he?"
Luckily for the young reporter, Gunna's conversational style involves turning every question around, grilling him thoroughly and saving him from eating the "traditional" style of food he can't handle. Even more luckily, he's arrived in town on the same day as the very unusual occurrence of an unidentified dead body off the pier, and Gunna is in hot pursuit of the man's identity -- and the reason for his death.

What looks like the casual drowning of a late-night drunk turns out to be far more ominous, the start of what may even be multiple murders, and the little fishing town is enmeshed in pivotal events on the eve of the 2008 banking collapse of Europe. But that's a long way off from the crime-solving that Gunna determines to pursue, with a fierce competence that surprises her co-workers, friends, and boss.

author Quentin Bates
Bates has turned out a great read, a really surprising first novel that clearly comes from plenty of adventures of his own, as well as a good sense of suspense and of humor. Better yet, this is the first of a two-book package, so there's definitely a second Gunnhildur mystery on the way. I'll be lining up to grab a first printing of the US hardcover edition when it rolls out at the first of the year.

Note: The UK edition of this book is titled FROZEN OUT.

No comments: