Friday, 9 January 2015

Novel Heights review of 'The Mistake'

Number Thirteen Press is an e-publishing company with plans to publish a list of 13 original pulp crime novellas at the rate of 1 per month for 13 months. Their debut title was launched on 13th November 2014, making The Mistake the third novella in the set.
Nicol is a New Zealand author living in Iceland and it is in Reykjavik that he has set this story. A young woman’s mutilated body is found on a Reykjavik street by a man who can’t remember whether or not he is responsible for her death. The injuries are horrific and Detective Grímur Karlsson is relieved to get his man at the scene of the crime. But life in crime fiction is never that simple. The suspect manages to end up in a hospital rather than a prison cell and as the case against him weakens things don’t seem to be going Grímur’s way.
The victim disappeared from her home some months before and when her father arrives in the city to identify her body he is determined that he won’t leave until the person responsible has been brought to justice. Lacking faith in the police he takes matters into his own hands and his efforts run in parallel to those of the professionals.
There are certain constraints with the novella format which mean that Nicol is succinct in drawing the characters and landscape, leaving plenty of scope for a complex plot that moves along at a brisk pace. The story starts as conventional crime fiction but as the action heads towards a dramatic conclusion it becomes darker, more graphic and increasingly violent.
There are multiple points of view which keep the action moving and as the story unfolds the parts the different characters play becomes clearer. The strands are neatly fitted together and the resulting climax is worthy of the description ‘Iceland Noir’. Despite the conventional start the story has a dark heart and a bleak ending.
I’m not used to reading novellas, but with my dislike of lengthy modern books I should try to read them more often! It’s interesting to note that Detective Grímur Karlsson also features in Nicol’s crime novel “On a Small Island“, published in 2014 (and a review of that is to follow).  Thank you to the publisher for the advance copy.

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