Sergeant Gunna – Gunnhildur Gísladóttir – of the Icelandic police is back! The interesting, stubborn heroine of Frozen Assets returns in author Quentin Bates’ follow-up appropriately entitled Cold Comfort.
However, it is not quite the same Gunna as we met in the first book in this new series. Gunna has now been promoted to the Serious Crimes Unit in Reykjavik, Iceland. Also, I get the feeling that she is getting a little more urbane in her ways and slightly less ugly. However, I don’t really know if that just is my perception of her or if Quentin Bates is doing a little job of slightly altering her image behind the scenes. Be that as it may – whatever the cause, I find that I like Gunna even more in the second book!
Thirty-seven year old Gunnhildur (in Iceland one uses first names) works two cases in this book. The first and more important involves the murder of a busty former beauty queen, television show participant and minor celebrity who is now a fitness instructor. Why was the sexy ex-beauty queen Svana Geirs killed? Svana Geirs “must have pissed someone off, or else she’d ripped someone off.”
The second involves a violent, tough guy named Long Ommi who for some reason has chosen to run away from prison at a point in time when he has almost completed his sentence, and who now seems to be going around settling accounts with people who have crossed him in the past. He is a very violent man, and his methods are quite worthy of a Viking. But why does he do this now? Why not just wait a little longer?
The tough and hard-working Gunna focuses on the murder case and slowly makes progress. It seems the dead beauty queen was involved in some relatively unusual arrangements, but it is hard to see why they should provide motivation for murder? However, as the investigation moves forward it becomes evident that there may be a connection between the two cases. In the process, we learn much about Icelandic society and meet shady characters both from upstairs and downstairs, and enjoy Gunna’s ability to see them as they are, despite their differences.
Cold Comfort is a good, suspenseful police procedural that is very evocative. Quentin Bates – an English writer who has lived ten or so years in Iceland– has managed to penetrate deep into the soul of the Icelander and is very good at portraying it. I especially like his characterizations – mostly very vivid – and his very good and intelligent dialogue.
Cold Comfort is also a smartly plotted, very authentic and icy cold crime fiction from Iceland, that little esoteric Scandinavian pearl far out in the middle of the cold North Atlantic. A very enjoyable read with a heroine that is fresh, different, intelligent, and fascinating. Gunna is a great addition to the list of Scandinavian heroines!