My Review of "Thin Ice" by Quentin Bates
This is book 5 of Quentin Bates "Office Gunnhildur" series. I have not read any of the other titles but was able to follow the storyline and enjoyed this book as a stand alone so I don't think it matters if you've read them or not - or if you read them out of sequence. What is does mean is that if you like it, there are 4 more for you to read - a massive plus!
This crime novel is set in Iceland. The location is incredibly atmospheric and really adds another dimension of suspense and tension. The snow creates a slightly suffocating feel and emphasises the sense of being trapped felt by the hostage victims. The story is of two small time criminals whose plans for a quick escape go wrong when their getaway driver fails to show up. In a panic, they jump into the nearest moving car and there begins their descent into a more serious set of crimes as they end up with two hostages in an isolated hotel which is closed for the season. At the same time, Officer Gunnhildur is investigating the death of a thief in a house fire. Both stories seem unrelated but as the investigation continues it is clear they are linked.
The thing I enjoyed most about this novel was that you were immediately thrown straight into the action and there was not a moment of pause or reflection. The narrative hurtles along at a really rapid pace with events unfolding quickly. Bates switches between the two stories and several characters which makes it a quick read and means that you want to read on to find out what happens. The reader is continuously presented with new information, new twists and developments which makes it quite filmic in a way and a gripping read. There is a wide cast of characters to keep track of but this fits with the action and style of the novel.
Erna, one of the hostages, is an interesting character. Not particularly likeable, she flits from displays of aggressive confidence to hysteria. She puts herself in danger with reckless threats to the hostage takers Ossur and Magni and then as Gunnhildur's investigation continues, there are hints of a more wild past and a mystery surrounding the paternity of her daughter Tinna. Her daughter Tinna is a similarly complex character. At 24 years old she is appears more shrew and perceptive. I spent a lot of the novel wondering whether she was a calculating manipulator or a foolish promiscuous young girl who enjoyed taking risks. She is not a typical victim and her reaction to the hostage situation is a great twist to the story. Her role is indicated early on when her mother pleadingly asks, "What are we going to do?" and Tinna's reply is that she is "enjoying the ride."
The fact that the two hostages and their criminal captors are snowed in at a deserted hotel couldn't help but remind me of Stephen King's "The Shining" which I thought actually made the whole situation more sinister for me!
Magni and Ossur are rather reluctant small time criminals who very quickly find themselves in a situation well out of their league. Magni has been forced into petty crime following redundancy and is more a victim of circumstance and this makes the reader more sympathetic towards him and his relationship with his hostages more intriguing.
I also enjoyed watching the police investigation unfold. At the beginning I felt I knew more than them about the crime which was a refreshing position to be in and I thought that the way I then observed their line of questioning and conclusions an interesting angle from which to read.
This book is an easy, fast, page turning read for anyone who enjoys well crafted crime stories with strong, engaging characters. It is action packed with several narratives to keep track of and a large cast of characters to engage with but at no point is it over complicated or confusing. This is all handled very well by Bates whose writing is fluent and concise. I am looking forward to reading some of the other titles in the series as a result of discovering this book.
Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book ahead of publication in return for a fair and honest review.
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