28 May 2015

Review: FROZEN OUT, Quentin Bates

  • author website Graskeggur
  • #1 in the Gunnhildur series
  • source: my local library
  • ISBN 978-1-84901-360-4
  • 330 pages
  • This edition published by Robinson 2011
Synopsis ( from author website Graskeggur)

Frozen Out is set in the months leading up to the collapse of the banks in Iceland that paralysed the country’s economy at a time when this little society was already polarised by a whole raft of issues.

Gunnhildur, a sergeant at a police station in a rural area in southern Iceland has to investigate the identity of a man found drowned in the harbour of the fishing village of Hvalvík. Although the man appears to have been the victim of an accident, she feels that there is more to this than meets the eye and finds out that this was certainly the case as she follows the trail in spite of being discouraged from pursuing it.

Frozen Out was published in January 2011 in the UK by Constable & Robinson and by Soho Crime (as Frozen Assets) in the US.

My take

"She's a big fat lass with a face that frightens horses."
That is the description Skuli is given when he asks how he will recognize Gunnhilda.

I did wonder how much she would have in common with Ann Cleeves' Vera Stanhope or even Big Marge, Aline Templeton's raw-boned Scot.

FROZEN ASSETS is the debut novel in the Gunnhildur serieswhich has now grown to four published titles. Essentially it is a police procedural with a middle aged female police sergeant operating in rural Iceland. As it is the first in the series there is a lot of background material to introduce Gunna and her colleagues to us, so it feels as if it will be best to read the titles in order (see the list below).

Gunna is a single parent with a 13 year old daughter so she tries essentially to work a 9 to 5 job, and usually nothing very exciting happens in Hvalvik, and so it is mainly possible. Of course she is constantly on call and locals visit her at home out of hours if they need anything. But the discovery of a body in the Hvalvik harbour changes all that, particularly since there does not seem to be any explanation of how he actually got there.

Gunna is pulled into a team based in Reyjavik, and is put in charge of the investigation which seems to have nation-wide implications. A new energy plant is being built at Hvalvik but the company behind it was once government-owned, and it seems that all sort of people, including government ministers are profiting. In addition an anonymously published blog with "inside" sources is highlighting both corruption and sexual pecadilloes happening in high society. Add to that the fact that Iceland's banks are just beginning to feel the financial crisis, and overseas investors are withdrawing from the scheme.

I like Gunna's strong character, her persistence, her comprehensive grasp of what needs to be done, and also the different view of Iceland this novel gives. I think I'll definitely be looking into another title in the series.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
Gráskeggur means ‘Greybeard.’ 
Quentin Bates dates back to the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis and was brought up in the south of England. In the year that Margaret Thatcher became Britain’s Prime Minister, he was offered the opportunity to spend a gap year working in Iceland and jumped at the chance of escape.

The gap year turned into a gap decade, during which he worked as a netmaker, factory hand and trawlerman, started a family and generally went native.  

Gunnhildur and the book that became Frozen Out (Frozen Assets in the US) grew out of a university writing course that enabled him to take an afternoon off work once a week.

1. Frozen Out (2011)
     aka Frozen Assets
2. Cold Comfort (2012)
2.5. Winterlude (2013)
3. Chilled to the Bone (2013)
4. Cold Steal (2014)
5. Thin Ice (2016)
Summerchill (2015)

1 comment:

Kay said...

I read this first book some years ago and really enjoyed it. Keep meaning to continue. Perhaps this is the summer to do that. I liked Gunna very much.


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