Saturday, 31 December 2016

First review of 'A Place To Bury Strangers'

Having read and enjoyed Nicol's 'On a Small Island' and 'The Mistake', I was eager to read 'A Place to Bury Strangers'. The title alone was enticing but the first events - a grizzly death, our anti-hero, Detective Grímur Karlsson injured and a young girl escaping into the cold, dark night hooked me into the story. Add a Norwegian phrase at the Reykjavík crime scene - "I have found the place where you bury strangers" - and the police have their eye on a known Norwegian enforcer. Ævar, Grímur's boss (who is keen for the aging, difficult Grímur to retire) and Grímur differ on the approach to take with the Norwegian.

Pay attention to the date heading each chapter. Once I figured that out, I was able to follow the back and forth of events which slowly revealed character motivations. Ævar needed to solve the murder, Grímur was searching for a young woman, Svandís who had disappeared, Knut the Norwegian had his own agenda and all events move along in parallel until it becomes clear how they intersect.

Top marks to Nicol for the ending - it surprised me.

Monday, 19 December 2016

'On A Small Island' almost three years on.... review by Jo Perry.

My debut novel 'On A Small Island' will be three years old next month but thanks to my publishing deal with the wonderful Fahrenheit Press it is now starting to reach a whole new audience all over the world. I was thrilled to receive this review today from one of Fahrenheit's most talented authors, the lovely Jo Perry. Her books 'Dead Is Better' and Dead Are Best' are two of Fahrenheit's most entertaining releases so it was a thrill to hear what she thought of my debut effort.

"This masterful, chilling, and stormy Nordic noir page-turner is much more than a whodunnit. In finding the location and identity of her siblings' abductor and the murderer of her father's farm hand and beloved horse, Nicol's stubborn, brave and complex narrator and protagonist, Ylfa Einarsdóttir, must confront horrific family secrets that threaten her life and can obliterate her sense of who she is. Ylfa's identity, like that of all Icelanders, comes not from a family name and history, but is defined by a patronymic. Ylfa is Einar's daughter––her father's daughter––to the world and to herself. Who her father was and is becomes the literal and figurative darkness which she must escape to save herself. Lively, restive, fearless and promiscuous Ylfa first hunts, and then is hunted by the person or persons who has taken her sisters and who threatens her stern and distant father. Her search takes her farther and farther away from Reykjavík's comfortable mix of tradition and modernity until she, alone in Iceland's stark and bone-chilling cold landscape, must confront the uncontrollable and deadly forces of human nature. Ylfa is a wonderful mix of darkness and light, blindness and strength. And I love the way Nicol uses horses as important characters in the novel—as innocents, victims and true measures of our humanity."

Friday, 9 December 2016

Welcome to Mooselandia #1

It is only been three weeks since I woke up with a hangover from my Saturday night out after Iceland Noir but it feels like a lot longer mainly because there’s been so many changes in my life since then. The biggest and most noticeably one is that I am no longer living in Iceland having called time on my stay there after two years of living in the tiny Nordic nation of imaginary elves, Sigur Rós and footballers capable of beating the English. My new haunt is Porvoo in southern Finland or Borgå if you are of the Swedish-speaking variety of Finn of which there are more than a few around here. There are always a few things to get used to when you move to a new country and one of the main ones you need to wrap your head around here is the dual-language usage. Everyone here speaks Finnish but in the south there is a large number of Swedish-speaking Finns. This is not just a small minority of people either. In some places in the south-west of the country they are actually in the majority. All the road signs here are in both languages. Finnish on top and Swedish underneath. Police cars have the word ‘Police’ written in Finnish on one side of the car and in Swedish on the other. Ambulances have the word ‘Ambulance’ on them in English only. No room for making mistakes there. Shop assistants often wear small badges on their chests with little flags indicating which languages they speak. Little Finnish flags, Swedish flags and the Union Jack are the most common ones you’ll see. Whereas in Iceland I only had one language to get to grips with – albeit one of the most complicated beasts on the planet – here I have two. I frequently find myself learning a new word in both languages at the same time. While Swedish is perhaps the simpler of the two languages to learn being more similar to English all the subtitles on TV are in Finnish and that is a great way to learn vocabulary no matter what anyone says.

Another challenge or delight in any new place is the food and here it’s pretty much all been delights so far. Even the dreaded Salmiakki which foreigners are supposed to loathe I have fallen in love with. It is Finland’s famous salty liquorice that really has to be tried to be believed.

They even have Salmiakki chocolate here as well as lemon and liquorice yoghurt which is totally amazing and apparently there’s a lemon and liquorice ice cream as well. Karelian Pies are another big thing here. They are small open-top pies made with a sort of shortcrust pastry made from rye flour and filled with rice. It’s the sort of fluffy rice that you might use in desserts. We eat them hot or cold with cream cheese on top.

Another huge thing here is the great outdoors. Where we live it is five minutes in pretty much any direction to the woods. Forest might be a better term. The trees start just behind the houses here and go on forever. They are criss-crossed with dozens of walking trails covering huge amounts of land. Some are about 3 or 4 km long while others go on for 15 or 16 km. In summer people head out to collect lingonberries and wild mushrooms for their kitchens while in winter you are more likely to come across people keeping fit out going for a walk or a run.

As the sun is pretty much gone by 3:30 in the afternoon at this time of year you can only use them fairly early in the day but there is one just down the road from here that has ‘street lights’ that wind along its entire length creating a spooky-as-hell light when they turn on.

It’s a cool way to get some exercise and it’s really easy to let your mind drift and empty itself as you wander through such breath-taking nature. The only thing you have to concern yourself with, apart from staying sufficiently warm, is moose. They live in the forests here and are generally very happy to keep out of your way which they will do if they can smell you coming and with a nose like that that happens about 99% of the time. It’s only when you surprise them apparently that they get rather upset about you being in their woods.

I haven’t seen one yet but I’m quite excited about the day that finally happens. That is after all one of the big attractions of living here in Mooselandia.