Fiction — Kindle edition. Soho Crime, 2011. Originally published 2010. 288 pgs. Library copy.
Prior to the 2008 global financial crisis that bankrupted Iceland’s major banks, a blogger named Skandalblogger was insisting there was something between a minister in the government, his wife’s public relations firm, and plans to build a new power plant near Hvalvík, Iceland.
When the head police officer of Hvalvík, a woman named Gunnhildur, is called to the harbor because of recently discovered body, few believe it is any more than a drunk man who took a wrong step. However, when Gunna discovers the man is from Reykjavik and works for the PR firm in question, she starts to connect this one death to a network of government bribery and international con-men.
Bates’ novel possessed all the ingredients to be the kind of crime novel I love: a no-nonsense, female detective; corrupt government officials; a financial crime; and a journalist eager to connect dots that others do not see. Unfortunately, these ingredients didn’t come together in a satisfy way, and I muddled through the story for nearly a month before I finished it.
Had the novel focused on Gunna and her efforts to solve the case of the drowned man, I may have enjoyed the novel more than I did. I found her navigation of the police bureaucracy and life as a single mother to be packed full of potential. But she is overshadowed as a character by the mystery of the skandalblogger, by the interjection of so many other characters and the coming collapse of the Icelandic economy. And all these elements slowed down the pace, particularly for a mystery novel.
Bates’ novel could have used another pass of the editor’s pen. Not only to tighten up the narrative, but to correct some of the spelling and punctuation errors. For example, the spelling of one character’s name changes throughout the story, and I constantly found myself wondering if this was the same character as the one in the previous chapter. It was quite a distraction, throwing me out of the story and forcing me to flip back a few pages to make sure.
This is the first in Bates’ Officer Gunnhildur series; the seventh in the series is slated to be published later this month. Based on my experiences with this novel, I don’t have much of an interest in continuing with the series.