Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai by Jim Jarmusch





There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything.




Monday, 23 November 2015

'The Mistake' reviewed by Craig Sisterson.

THE MISTAKE by Grant Nicol (Number 13 Press, 2015)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

A mutilated body is found on a lonely street in Reykjavík. Detective Grímur intends to see that justice is done. Kjartan Jónsson vows that his daughter’s killer will be punished. And that the punishment will fit the crime. Prime suspect Gunnar Atli desperately needs to prevent his own dark secrets from coming to light. And he’s not the only one.

THE MISTAKE was the first story from Iceland-based Kiwi author Grant Nicol that I've read. It won't be the last. Diving into this novella on a train journey in the UK, I found myself completely absorbed by Nicol's prose and storytelling. Hooked early, intrigued throughout.

Set in Nicol's adopted hometown of Reykjavik, THE MISTAKE has a simple but very effective set-up. There's been a brutal murder. There's a clear prime suspect - the very troubled man prone to blackouts who claims he just stumbled across the body. A cop and a bereaved father both want justice, but of vastly different kinds. Several people, all with secrets, collide.

Nicol does a superb job taking this premise and layering in a lot of complexities and intrigue. Beyond the "just what really happened - did Gunnar Atli do it or not?" hook, we are taken down a number of rabbit holes, as Nicol guides us into the darker parts of Icelandic society. Prostitution, treatment of the mentally ill, domestic troubles, crime and justice. Nordic Noir with a strong emphasis on the NOIR.

This is a very good crime tale.

Part of Number 13 Press's monthly series of high quality crime novellas, THE MISTAKE is small but perfectly formed. 150 pages that pack quite a punch, and leaves the reader reeling at times.

Being a novella, there isn't room for a massive amount of character development, but I felt that Nicol did a good job bring some depth to those involved; they were more than ciphers or caricatures, even if it is a very plot and atmosphere-focused tale. There's a real creepy sense to THE MISTAKE, a story of things going badly wrong in a world where bad things happen, beneath the snowy and peaceful veneer of Iceland.

Reading THE MISTAKE almost reminded me of those classic horror movies, which were brooding and creepy more than bloody and slasher-like. Absorbing, atmospheric, and suspenseful - powered by dark situations getting even darker as events unfold. Where the worst things happened off-screen, and were left to our imaginations, fuelling that gut-clenching psychological fear rather than blood-filled splatter and visuals.


Nicol is a talented storyteller who takes us on a short, but very good, ride.






Saturday, 7 November 2015

ICELAND AIRWAVES 2015: Looking back fondly on some very nice days of music.



This year’s ‘Airwaves’ really started with a bang and a wallop. The first night alone was so good it was hard to believe although my feet sure had no trouble believing it the next day.
On my way down to the Media Centre at Harpa on Wednesday to pick up my wristband I stopped in at Bíó Paradís on Hverfisgata to listen to the off-venue performance of Rythmatik. I had never heard of these guys before but was really pleased I took the time to check them out. They formed in 2012 but things have only just started happening for them much more recently. They were the winners of the Icelandic Music Experiments 2015 which is a competition that promotes young and up and coming local talent that many consider will be the ‘next thing to erupt’ on the Icelandic scene.
Check out the I.M.E website here: http://www.musiktilraunir.is/english
One of the reason there are so many super-talented bands here in Iceland is because of the level of support that musicians receive here compared to many other places I’ve lived. That also applies to writers and artists of all types. If you want a thriving cultural scene you need to put in the hard work to nurture the talent you have available within the community.


Not only do Rythmatik play cool and highly enjoyable indie rock but the lead singer is one of the funniest guys you will see on stage here or in any other country for that matter. Seriously, the guy should do stand-up. On the way back from Harpa with my funky purple wristband now firmly around my wrist I dropped into the foyer at Hlemmur Square to catch Börn play their intense style of feminist punk. I had been reading about these girls for quite a few years now and was seriously happy that I finally got around to seeing them. With the huge number of bands that play Airwaves every year it can be a struggle to see every one you want to see first time around. ‘Bara hrós’ by Börn: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCqsABla8r8


The first night of the official programme started for me at Gaukurinn with Sinmara, a local death-metal band followed by the almighty Icelandic punk phenomenon, Muck. It was Muck’s first performance with their new drummer Gylfi Freeland Sigurðsson and their last before heading to the UK and hitting the road with Superheaven and Every Time I Die. Getting some exposure in the UK will be fantastic for these punk rock heavyweights. Each time I see them it’s staggering how good they are. I would defy any band in the country to better them on any given night. They are ridiculously fast, unbelievably tight and write great raw energetic punk rock songs. Anyone catching them in the UK won’t forget them in a big hurry. ‘Provoke Me’ by Muck:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYGFCPH71Yg


That awesome performance was followed by two brilliant shows in quick succession at Harpa that were almost worth the price of the festival ticket on their own. First up was Airwaves perennials Dikta with their friend Tóti playing bass for them just for the night before he had to run to the room next door to play guitar and keyboards for his ‘other band’ Agent Fresco. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen Dikta now but they are one of the most enjoyable bands in Iceland to watch and a lot of that comes down to the fact that they always have such a good time on stage themselves. Their lead singer Haukur Heiðar Hauksson is a doctor at the Landspítali hospital in Reykjavík and their drummer Jón Þór Sigurðsson is a pilot and despite having such busy ‘day jobs’ these guys still find the time to be one of the most consistently entertaining bands in the country as well as releasing album after album of quality catchy-as-hell tunes. ‘Sink Or Swim’ by Dikta: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2c2I7G86kQ


Next door Agent Fresco were at their awesome best giving a performance of raw passionate energy. Some lead singers can seem closed off or to be simply going through the motions. Some wear their hearts of their sleeves but Arnór Dan takes his and throws it to the audience to see what they will do with it and they inevitably embrace it and give him all that love right back. Agent Fresco gigs are special events and the show at Harpa was no exception. The band played everything live including the many electronics that feature on their albums. They employed the talents of Styrmir who mixed their latest album, 'Destrier' to play synths and local wonder-boy Ceasetone to play rhythm guitar. All in all an amazing, amazing show.


Thursday night brought about one of the best Airwaves moments of any of the festivals so far for me with John Grant performing with the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra. Every Airwaves I’ve been too I’ve made a point of seeing whoever has been playing with the fantastic I.S.O and along the way I’ve seen Valgeir Sigurðsson perform his soundtrack to the movie, ‘Draumalandið -check out some of it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kp5n2vd8c9o 
As well as that I’ve seen Ólafur Arnalds perform his album ‘For Now I Am Winter’ and Jóhann Jóhannsson performing ‘The Miners’ Hymns’ – check out some of that here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_Rfkhg7s_M  and they’ve all been outstanding but John Grant’s performance was one that took me completely by surprise.
Perhaps it was because I didn’t really know what to expect having never heard John’s music before but that turned out to be a bonus. His songs are quirky and brilliant and his voice is truly exceptional. His rapport with the crowd was heart-warming and there is obviously a lot of love for him here. He has certainly been embraced by the country he now calls home and it’s because he has embraced it and its people so openly himself. Definitely a serious highlight of the festival if not THE highlight. There were so many stand-out tracks but this was my pick off his songs. If you can just imagine this accompanied by a sixty-piece orchestra: ‘Where Dreams Go To Die’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNfckqekxY4


 The other big highlight of the festival for me was another local band that has played almost every year at Airwaves since its inception in 1999. I caught kimono off-venue at Bar 11 on Friday and tonight is their official show at Gamla Bíó. I unfortunately missed their Thursday night gig with being at John Grant and all which was a shame but like I said before it’s just impossible to see everything you want to with such a wonderful glut of talent and shows on offer. These three gigs for Airwaves 2015 are the only ones that kimono have played all year apart from one for a local radio station at the beginning of the year and one they did in September at Húrra with their friend from Germany, Ari Russo. I was lucky enough to be at the radio interview and concert at Bar 11 but missed the gig at Húrra so it was definitely a case of making up for lost time this time around. The off-venue show at Bar 11 impressed the crowd, a lot of whom were foreign including the gentleman from Lithuania who Gylfi Blöndal, kimono’s affable bass player, engaged in conversation much to everyone’s delight suggesting that he was “possibly German”.
Many of the enthusiastic punters came up to the stage after the show to voice their appreciation to the band members. The highlights of the show for me were the recent single ‘Specters’, the painfully honest and wonderfully bleak ‘Less Than Zero’ and ‘Black’ from the album ‘Easy Music For Difficult People’. If you haven’t heard of them before you should check out ‘Specters’ here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KMEAwgB26g



And if you’ve never checked out Iceland Airwaves before or indeed Iceland in general for that matter then you should seriously consider doing both next year. As soon as this Airwaves is done we’ll be counting down the days until the next one comes around. It’s like Christmas for your ears. 

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Moose-inspired sequel to Ken Russell's 'Lair of the White Worm' to be shot in Iceland.





 ‘Lair of the White Moose’ scheduled for shooting in 2016.





It has just been announced that there is to be a sequel made to Ken Russell’s 1988 cult horror movie ‘Lair of the White Worm’ and that production of the film, which will be shot during the first half of 2016, will be entirely in and around Egilsstaðir in eastern Iceland.





The Nordic-flavoured sequel, ‘Lair of the White Moose’ will begin in a similar fashion to the original movie with the unearthing of a giant moose skull in the frozen highlands around Egilsstaðir by Peter Capaldi who will be taking time off from his exploits as Doctor Who to reprise his role as the enterprising archaeologist Angus Flint. 

Capaldi will be joined by other members of the original cast namely Hugh Grant as the ever-pompous Lord James D’Ampton, Catherine Oxenberg as Eve Trent and Sammi Davis as Eve’s sister Mary. Amanda Donohoe will unfortunately not be reappearing as the delightful and dangerous Lady Sylvia Marsh as she was eaten by the white worm in the original movie.





A director for the project has not yet been named but an announcement is due sometime in the near future. Speculation is that the job will be given to an 'up and coming' Icelandic talent. 

Ken Russell, the enigmatic British director of the original movie and such cult classics as ‘Tommy’, ‘Altered States’ and ‘Gothic’ passed away in 2011. Capaldi, Grant, Oxenberg and Davis all reportedly leapt at the opportunity to work on the sequel citing the original film as one of the highlights of their careers.





Oxenberg in particular was thrilled by the news and said that it would be a nice change of pace from working on such tedious drivel as ‘The Dog Who Saved Christmas Vacation’ and ‘Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf’.

“When an opportunity to work on a project such as this comes along you don’t even think about turning it down,” said the daughter of Princess Elisabeth of Yugoslavia and star of the 80’s super-soap ‘Dynasty’.

The former Amanda Carrington went on to say that, “Even though Ken Russell obviously won’t be involved this time around, having met a few Icelanders in my time, I am confident that we will be able to come up with something equally original and authentically crazy.”

When asked if she would be hanging over an open pit that descended into the middle of the earth in her underwear once again in ‘The Lair of the White Moose’ she giggled slightly but refused to comment. Shortly after that question she was led away from the interview by a heavily-set man in a bright red Hawaiian shirt who may or may not have been Samoan.




Hugh Grant also seemed excited about taking on the project twenty-seven years after the original film was released.

“It’s time I got back to the roles that put me where I am today,” he said. “Without opportunities from directors like Ken I would never have been able to move on to such hits as ‘About a Moose’ and ‘Moose Actually’.





Tuesday, 13 October 2015

'Pawn Sacrifice' and the life of Bobby Fischer.

Pawn Sacrifice
A genius’s descent into madness.



This is the story of Bobby Fischer. The chess grand-master, the genius, the Icelander and the paranoid recluse who rose to the top of the world before falling from grace with as much force as he could possibly muster. The man who was born in Chicago, raised in Brooklyn and now lies buried in Selfoss.


‘Pawn Sacrifice’ deals primarily with his childhood, early chess-playing years and the lead up to and the playing of the 1972 World Chess Championship in my hometown of Reykjavík. A championship that Fischer had to come back from 2-0 down to finally win 12 ½ - 8 ½ in one of the oddest and most remarkable achievements in world sport. The film documents the very early stages of his chess career as he was discovered in New York as a rather difficult but ridiculously talented youngster. He went on to become the American youth champion and then the youngest ever adult champion with the competitions only ever recorded perfect score. His fiery ambition and palpable arrogance drove him on to want to take on his Russian counterparts as they were considered to be the very best in the world. And he wanted to beat them all. As this was the time of the Cold War and the Vietnam conflict there was soon interest in his challenge for the world title from political quarters. Something that would later fuel his paranoia to frightening levels. He said that he wasn’t very interested in politics but unfortunately due to the times he played in politics soon became interested in him.
It has been said that good chess players can see up to four moves ahead as they try to anticipate their opponent’s next move and then their own counter moves. Bobby Fischer was reportedly able to ‘see’ seven or eight moves into the future as he tried to come up with a strategy to combat every possible move that his foes might make. It appears that this gift was as much of a curse for him as it was a blessing. His ability to imagine such a myriad of outcomes in any given situation gave rise to him putting together scenarios in his head that all sorts of people were getting up to all manner of things that would adversely affect him. He began to live in a dangerous world of make-believe. His paranoid delusions gave rise to theories that the KGB, CIA and any number of other government agencies around the world were tracking his every move, following him and recording him on camera through television sets and by using listening devices that he continually checked for in hotel rooms everywhere. He was also convinced that there was some sort of Jewish plot against him which was wild speculation indeed considering that he was Jewish himself.
He was extremely sensitive to noise and easily distracted by anyone coughing or fidgeting in the same room as he was trying to play. In Reykjavík his demands for silence involved the moving of television cameras, the changing of the chess board to a wooden one and eventually the match being moved to a basement recreation room which he found sufficiently quiet. After losing the opening game of the tournament he forfeited the second game by not showing up for it giving his opponent Boris Spassky what many considered to be an unassailable 2 -0 lead. When Spassky surprisingly agreed to play in the basement Fischer came back to level the scores and then allowed the remaining games to be played upstairs in the original auditorium. In the pivotal sixth game he played brilliant and inspired chess in what is still regarded as one of the greatest games in the sport’s history.
Even before he showed up late in Iceland to play Spassky he seemed determined to sabotage his chances of winning. Some people thought he was afraid of being humiliated by the Russian and that was why he came up with lists of ridiculous demands time and time again. Such was his inner belief that he would beat Spassky and win the title though it would appear that he may have in fact been more worried about what would happen when he won. Although not covered in the film the story of what was to come after the famous victory in Iceland proved to be an even more unsettling tale.
When the time came for him to defend his crown he gave the governing body yet another set of demands. This time they were non-negotiable and he stated that if they weren’t met he wouldn’t play. As the list contained changes to the rules that the tournament was played by including the number of games played and the number of wins required to take the title his demands were not met and he forfeited the tournament and the title to Anatoly Karpov. After this he entered a twenty year period of self-imposed exile from the game and didn’t play again competitively until 1992 when he agreed to give Spassky a rematch of their famous tie. He won the rematch but this was the beginning of a much more serious set of problems than he had ever encountered before and they allowed the already wild conspiracy theories in his head to flourish unabated. As the match took place in the former Yugoslavia during the time of United Nations trade sanctions the US Government warned him that he would have a warrant put out for his arrest if he went ahead with his plans and that any winnings would be confiscated. He played Spassky anyway and the US made good on both promises.
After seeking refuge in Japan Fischer was living there in 2001 when the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York shocked America to its core. He was then filmed on Japanese television as he ranted and railed against the US Government that he felt had wronged him. He said that they had finally got exactly what they deserved and that the whole thing had been a Zionist conspiracy. This angered US President George W. Bush so much that he cancelled Fischer’s passport and insisted that Japan hand him over to them much as they have done much more recently with Edward Snowden. The Japanese refused but placed him in a detention centre and eventually told him that he would have to leave Japan. They would fly him anywhere he wanted just so long as the country he chose would take him. The only people Bobby could think of to turn to for help were the ones who had befriended him in the Icelandic capital thirty-three years earlier. An application for asylum was put before the Alþingi in Reykjavík and granted. Fischer was granted Icelandic citizenship and flown to Keflavík airport.


Once in Iceland he became ever more reclusive spending his days wandering around town and reading in the second-hand book shop Bókin on Hverfisgata just one block from where I have just watched ‘Pawn Sacrifice’. 





He spent three years in Reykjavík before getting a urinary tract infection. He refused treatment in the Landspítali hospital which led to him contracting a blood infection. When he was told that he would require a blood transfusion or else he would die he refused that also and passed away in 2008.


He now lies in rest in a small cemetery at the Selfoss Catharose Church fifty kilometres outside of Reykjavík. 





His last words were said to have been, "Nothing is as healing as the human touch". And so ended the life of one of the most startlingly brilliant and ultimately troubled talents the world has ever seen. The thing that sets people like Bobby Fischer apart from the rest of us is so often the thing that becomes their undoing. A sad end to what was a captivating if rather strange life.

Watch the ‘Pawn Sacrifice’ trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFHvH9FtACg


Sunday, 27 September 2015

Airwaves Is Coming To Town Again

November the 4th this year represents a little milestone for me. It will mark the beginning of my fifth Iceland Airwaves festival. The musical journey began for me in October 2011 when I came to Reykjavík to attend Airwaves for the first time. I wasn’t living here at the time but was beginning to ‘commute’ every year to visit the place. Like a lot of the really cool stuff that happens to you in life I stumbled upon the festival quite by chance. I wasn’t able to visit Reykjavík until October in 2011 so I was looking for something to do that would keep me entertained. Having misspent six years of my youth on the road with all manner of rock bands back when I was living in New Zealand and Australia I’ve always had a bit of a thing for music especially when it’s of the loud, fast and heavy variety.
Airwaves differs a lot from of other festivals in that it does not all take place at the one venue. Given that it is held at the beginning of November it would be almost impossible to do this outdoors in Iceland due to the weather (that sort of carry on is saved for the very middle of summer) so they have come up with the most cunning and imaginative of alternatives. This year the festivals is spread over ten primary venues: Harpa (a world class concert centre that incorporates four venues including the Icelandic Symphony’s concert chamber), NASA (a once defunct and now reopened venue of much fame and legend), Gamla Bíó (an old theatre converted into a music venue), Húrra (a friendly and cosy bar with a stage at one end), Gaukurinn (the bar next door and upstairs from Húrra that is the definitive rock venue in Reykjavík), Iðnó (a restaurant with a stage at one end that also acts as a live venue), Tjarnabíó (a working theatre that also serves as a music venue, cafe and arts centre), the Reykjavík Art Museum (no prizes for guessing what this one does on its days off), Fríkirkjan (a church) and Vodafone Hall (a large multi-purpose sports and concert venue).
On top of these official venues there is also a huge off-venue programme where anyone in the city can pop along to a vast variety of shops, hotels, cafes, and bookshops who open their doors to the public and host concerts during the afternoon before the real action takes place later on in the evening. You can see nearly all the bands performing on any given year at these off-venue performances in what can sometimes be tiny and very intimate settings. The off-venue system gives the festival a decidedly inclusive feeling as if the whole city is taking part and to a large extent that is true. During the daytime you can walk down Laugavegur and Austurstræti and it feels and sounds as if every shop, coffee house and backpacker’s hostel is in on it. There are bands playing in shop windows, in record stores and hotel bars and foyers. It is a cornucopia of noise, rhythm and beats. And fun. The whole city centre feels as if it’s having a good time.
The main attractions for me this year include the more prominent members of the local rock scene: Agent Fresco, Endless Dark, kimono, Muck and perhaps a little more surprisingly the opportunity to see John Grant perform with an orchestra. Over the last four years I have seen some wonderful contemporary performances when the Icelandic Symphony have teamed up with some of the local composers. This year John Grant will join the elite ranks of Valgeir Sigurðsson, Ólafur Arnalds and Jóhann Jóhannsson all of whom I’ve seen and been thrilled by in the magnificent Eldborg concert chamber.
Agent Fresco have just released their second album ‘Destrier’ to universal acclaim and praise and will be playing songs both old and new to loyal local fans as well as a bunch of new foreign converts. These guys have an intensity about them that very few other bands can match. Not in volume or speed but simple raw emotion and honesty. Last year they were responsible for the best night I’ve ever had at Gaukurinn with their incredibly emotive performance and I’ve had some pretty good nights there over the last four years. Arnór Dan has a no holds barred approach to his lyric writing and the themes of loss, love and regret are always to the fore in their songs. They are not a band that will make you want to bounce or scream, they are a band designed to make you feel and that’s exactly what they do.
Endless Dark were one of the first bands I saw at my first Airwaves and have remained a serious favourite of mine ever since. They have been threatening to release their debut album for some time now but there are signs that this year might actually be the one when it hits the shelves. They have gone through some line-up changes of late but have just released a pretty damn cool video for their single ‘Warriors’. They are definitely a band to keep your eye on.
Kimono are another band threatening to release another album sometime in the not too distant future. Their performance at Airwaves will be only their third this year having played recently with Ari Russo at Húrra and once before that at a recording for local radio downstairs at Bar 11. I was lucky enough to be at that show and can happily say that if the upcoming recordings match the quality of ‘Specters’ and ‘Less Than Zero’ then we are in for a real treat when the album does come out. #thisisgoingtohurt #kimonoiceland

Last but very definitely not least is the Icelandic powerhouse that is Muck. They get described as grindcore but for me they’re just punk rock with long hair. I have seen these guys three times in the last few months and their shows just keep getting better and better. They are a serious force to be reckoned with live and have earned my stamp of approval in a big way. I would have to say that they are undoubtedly the best live act in the country at the moment. That’s a big call given that there are much more popular bands out there who can draw much bigger crowds than the Muck boys do but they have repeatedly shown that their ability to whip a crowd (especially a late-night crowd of drunk guys with shaved heads and big beards) into a complete frenzy is unparalleled. I have seen slam-dancing at their shows that would have put gigs by GBH to shame. Muck play as fast as any band you will ever see but do so with an incredible tightness and clarity that sets them well apart from their peers. Their album ‘Your Joyous Future’ is indeed a joy to behold and despite the recent departure of their long-time drummer I can see these guys going a long way in the business of rocking you till your socks fall off. As far as they want to is what I’m guessing. 

Sunday, 13 September 2015

'THE DEFENCELESS' by Kati Hiekkapelto







It was only four short months ago that I was reading Kati’s first novel while attending CrimeFest in Bristol. My subsequent review of ‘The Hummingbird’ enthralled, titillated and amused discerning readers all over Finland while leaving the rest of the world scratching their collective heads in bewilderment at what the hell I was talking about. So I’m back for a second bite at the cherry and this time it’s ‘The Defenceless’ and this time I’m determined to get anyone I might have missed the first time around. I may very well be a little twisted and possibly unhinged in one way or other but I am very thorough if nothing else.
Anna Fekete has been launched through my Icelandic postal aperture and back into my life and I’ve got to say I’m pretty happy she’s back. There’s something about Anna that I’ve come to admire. I like the way she struggles to get on with those around her, whether it be Esko, the obnoxious, self-aggrandising drunk she is forced to work with or Ákos, her troubled and equally hard-drinking brother. Esko has dreams of making a fresh start elsewhere but seems myopically unaware that his problems will simply follow him wherever he goes. While Ákos seems to be the epitome of the lost soul. He is a stranger in a strange land. Uprooted and transplanted to a new life in a new country he self-medicates his disconnection with as much booze as he can afford on any given day.
Neither relationship is as black and white as you might possibly expect from a less intuitive writer and Anna’s sympathy for each deeply-flawed male swings first one way and then the other. She is torn between loathing her colleague and tolerating him and detesting her brother’s wasted life and blaming herself for his long list of poor decisions. In fact there aren’t too many truly likable characters in her life and for me that’s what makes her existence ring true. Books full of nice people bore me.
An old man is run over while lying down in the street by Hungarian rally driver Gabriella who is investigated for dangerous driving but later exonerated of impersonating Ari Vatanen and released. For Anna this is only the beginning of their relationship as the obviously lonely yet irritatingly arrogant Gabriella seeks Anna’s attention, advice and company like a newly acquired puppy. The dead man then becomes the centre of an investigation that involves a turf war between rival biker gangs, heroin dealers, a jealous ex-lover and an asylum seeker so desperate not to be returned to his homeland that he is willing to admit to a crime he didn’t commit in order to remain in Finland albeit it in a prison cell. For him Finland has indeed become the land of endless opportunity.
Piece by piece Anna puts together the puzzle of what Sammy the Christian Pakistani asylum seeker has or hasn’t done since his application for leave to remain was turned down. The worries he deals with every day are not just limited to arrest and deportation but to where he can find his next hit of heroin or dose of Subutex. Meanwhile Esko struggles with himself as much as the criminals he’s after while trying to stop the expansion of a foreign gang who seem hell-bent on moving their narcotics business to the chilly northern-Finnish idyll. A blood-covered knife found in the woods and a corpse in a room full of narcotics complicate matters for them as the story builds towards its climax.
I found ‘The Defenceless’ to be an impressive step-up from ‘The Hummingbird’ which is not to say that her first book wasn’t good. It was. Really good. It’s just that the writing here feels more comfortable and assured and the relationships between the characters that appear in both books have grown and provide subplots that give insight and depth to the controlling idea of the story.
Anna Fekete will continue to be a favourite leading lady of mine simply because of the way she deals with the slings and arrows of her everyday existence. She hates getting her period, she likes hooking up with men but rarely wants anything to do with them once she’s slept with them and struggles with the demands of many of the other people in her life even when all they’re trying to do is be nice to her. I think that possibly says as much about me as anything else though.  

As a foreigner Anna views Finland as only an outsider can and that is a great way to create empathy for an international audience. John Irving says that all writers are outsiders and I think they need to be in order to do their job properly. If you want others to understand what you trying to say you have to be able to put yourself in their shoes for a while in order to do your job properly and that is one thing Kati is particularly skilled at doing. She is able to see her country from the outside looking in and wants us all to take a good look before turning our attention back to our own and doing the very same thing there.




FEAR AND LOATHING IN THE GULF OF BOTHNIA







It wasn’t long after I had finished reading ‘The Defenceless’ that I had a dream. A strange and troubling vision that seemed to want to tell me something although I am still not sure exactly what it was it was trying to say. The next morning I couldn’t tell if it had simply been one of the many nightmares I am prone to having, such is the dark and twisted nature of my mind, or possibly some kind of premonition.
In the dream my trusted Samoan attorney and I were driving very fast along an old and worn moose track somewhere in the north-eastern corner of the Gulf of Bothnia. I surmise it was in fact on Hailuoto although I have yet to set foot there. Now I feel I must go. That I in fact have no choice in the matter such was the clarity of the dream. We were somewhere on the edge of the island, because I could smell the salt in the air, when the drugs began to take hold. The huge red car began to swerve from one side of the narrow track to the other as if it was suddenly beyond my control. I vaguely remember saying something like “I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive....”
And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge puffins, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down so we would make it in time to the last ferry back to Oulu. And a voice was screaming “Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?”
Then it was quiet again. My attorney had taken off his bright red Hawaiian shirt and was pouring Saku Originaal on his chest to facilitate the Finnish tanning process.
“What the hell are you yelling about?” he muttered, staring up at the midnight sun with his eyes closed and covered with wraparound Spanish sunglasses.
“Never mind,” I said. “It's your turn to drive.” I hit the brakes and aimed the Great Red Shark toward the shoulder of the moose track. No point mentioning those puffins, I thought. The poor bastard will see them soon enough. I was right. It didn’t take long at all before I could hear him making strange and incomprehensible sounds.
“Haista vittu lunnit!” I heard him mumble to himself as I climbed into the back of the car to get some much needed rest. I couldn’t remember what we had done to necessitate such a speedy exit from the island but whatever it was it must have been serious. There was a moose’s head lying in the footwell directly behind the driver’s seat. Its antlers had been hacked off in a crooked and frenzied fashion and its eyes had been pecked out by a hundred or more razor sharp beaks. The wounds were too numerous to count and the damage the moose had sustained before having its head cut off had been horrible in the extreme. “Haista vittu lunnit” indeed I thought to myself.
“To the ferry, my friend, this is no time to take it easy you drunken bastard,” I screamed up at the sky as I waved my arms as menacingly as I could in front of my face to keep the belligerent puffins away. “There’s not a moment to lose,’ I continued briefly before passing out on the moose’s head.
After the dream I woke not knowing if we had made it to the boat or not. I didn’t know if the puffins had got the better of us or even if the moose had been a friend, an enemy or a lover. Without the proper information from my attorney it’s hard to guess at exactly what goes on in the middle of the night on those strange Finnish islands.




THIS IS SPINAL MOOSE







Now, after much contemplation I have decided that the dream was merely a sign and not a warning so I have decided that during the spring of 2016 I will be taking a break from writing and my Samoan attorney and I will be relocating to Hailuoto to manage Kati’s band Parrakas nainen (The Bearded Women) and record and produce their debut album, ‘Smell the Moose’.
My trusted Samoan companion is also a very talented artist and will therefore be responsible for producing the artwork for the album. The cover of ‘Smell The Moose’ will feature a heavily greased naked man on all fours with a dog collar and leash around his neck. There will be one moose’s front leg extended holding onto the leash while the other front leg pushes a black glove in his face forcing him to sniff it. The question we want listeners to ask themselves when they first experience this Finnish sonic assault is “How much more moose could this album be?” And the answer of course has to be, none. None more moose.  
The first single to be lifted from the album will be ‘Lick My Love Moose’ which we fully anticipate will be banned in at least twenty moose-intolerant areas in North America alone before it even goes on sale. Hopefully this will only be the case in small moose-hating communities so sales of the single and subsequent album will not be affected worldwide. The idea is that the publicity generated internationally by the bans will completely outweigh any loss in sales in places such as Moose Jaw, Moose City, Moose Creek or Moose Mountain.
‘Fear Of A Moose Planet’ is already being talked about as the follow up album to ‘Smell The Moose’ where we will see the band take a decidedly sideways move into the world of hip hop. Parrakas nainen have said repeatedly that they do not want to be confined to just the one musical genre so they can reach as many people as possible about their support of universal moose domination.
I can’t do nuttin’ for ya man
You better moose kiss my butt
I can’t do nuttin’ for ya man
I'm busy tryin’ to do it for my moose
I can't do nuttin’ for ya man
That’s the way the moose bounces gee

Bass for your face, kick that moose shit boyyyy!

As soon as ‘Lick My Love Moose’ is released the band, myself and my Samoan attorney will be setting out on a comprehensive world tour. The first gig on the tour will be a show in Iceland shortly after the Around Iceland in 66.6 Days puffin charity walk that Kati will be doing to raise money for Puffins Without Borders. The charity walk gets its name from the number of days it has been calculated that it will take Kati to circumambulate Iceland’s Ring Road at the rate of 20km per day. A pace that she has selected herself as being the most suitable and attainable for the conditions. The concert will also be the headlining attraction at Iceland Noir 2016. The support act for the show will be Yrsa and Lilja Sigurðardóttir covering the hit made famous by The Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin ‘Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves’.
On the charity walk around Iceland Kati will be accompanied by both myself and my Samoan attorney in a convertible red Cadillac as well as by her favourite Icelandic pack horse, Peachfuzz Bumblefuck III. We want to assure people that under no circumstances will Peachfuzz be carrying Kati for any of the walk, as this would breach the conditions of the charity event, and that he will merely be there to provide a little specialised advice, introduce her to some of the locals along the way, encourage her when she gets tired and to carry ‘a few things’. As yet my attorney has not decided exactly how many things constitute ‘a few’.
While Kati is completing the Around Iceland in 66.6 Days walk work on the third book in the Anna Fekete series will continue unabated. The remaining text will be ghost written by my Samoan attorney in the backseat of the Cadillac while I drive and keep a very keen eye out for puffins. The subsequent novel will be entitled, ‘The Girl in the Moose’s Lair’ and will be published to worldwide acclaim by Orenda Books sometime in late 2016.
In conjunction with the charity walk Parrakas nainen will be releasing a live version of the UK Subs song ‘Down on the Farm’ with something of a Finnish twist to it to raise even more money for Puffins Without Borders. How these crazy little birds survived before she came along I honestly don’t know. As far as the puffins are concerned she is a gift from heaven. ‘Down on the Farm’ will be recorded at the Iceland Noir concert in Reykjavík complete with backing vocals from the Sigurðardóttir sisters. We will celebrate this great one-off punk event with a couple of Saku Originaals and my attorney will be jotting down a short review of the show for Puffinblaðið, Iceland’s number one puffin-related newspaper.
Nobody comes to see me
Nobody here to turn me on
I ain't even got a moose lover
Down here on the farm

I can't fall in love with a wheat field
I can't fall in love with a barn
Well everything smells like moose shit
Down here on the farm
Time and time again my mind is drawn back to that terrifying dream.
“Haista vittu lunnit,” he had said to me.
“Vittu hirvi,” I should have replied.
“Vittu hirvi” is right. What had we done to cause us to be in such a hurry? Is there any chance we would make it off that goddamn island alive? What did the moose do to deserve to die in such a way and were we going to be next?
I hope I wasn’t wrong about that dream. I hope it wasn’t meant as some kind of terrible warning and that once my Samoan attorney and I get to Hailuoto next year we will make it off the island again in one piece once we have recorded the album. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years it’s that there’s no such thing as a sure thing in this life. And if you’ve ever found yourself having to get the hell out of a moose-friendly nation like Finland in a big hurry with a moose’s head stuck in the footwell of a large red convertible and a drunk sunburnt Samoan attorney at the wheel you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. 

Sunday, 23 August 2015

‘Redbone’ by Matt Phillips, reviewed by Gunnar Davíðsson.


When you swing, swing hard.

“A little bit of bourbon, too much silence and enough walking and work to make a 38-year-old man’s feet hurt like hell. That’s what Calvin got today, and that’s what he’d get tomorrow. Until he got something else, something different.”
Well, something different was what he got. Calvin G. Redbone’s day starts off with a little coffee and a little bourbon just like it does every other day but after that it’s all downhill from there. First he loses his friend, Mister Salmons, then he loses his job courtesy of the slimy two-faced Seymour Aiken. It’s around now that he realises that “Calvin G. Redbone was a poor man, he was one poor sonofabitch.” And that ain’t no shit.
He hasn’t got much left apart from the saucy Marnie who lives in the same rundown trailer park they call Paradise and it’s getting so that he doesn’t have much left to lose at all. His day goes from bad to worse as he’s confronted by the greed of the tedious Ronald Grimace, asshole extraordinaire and Mister’s son, Grayson Salmons. Two men who enjoy making money for the sake of making money and treating men like shit for the sake of treating men like shit. Because, “When things are too easy for people, they turn into pricks.”
The local cop, Deputy Peach-fuzz does his best to keep Calvin on the straight and narrow but it becomes an ever-increasingly difficult task as it seems that everything he touches turns to dust. “The roses died and went to hell. Like a lot of people do. You try to bring a little beauty to the world and you end up killing something.”
The final back-breaking straw comes in the form of the lawyer his wife hired to fuck him over during their divorce.
“You’re the one she’s fucking?”
“Not how I’d put it, Mr. Redbone – nobody gets fucked in my house.”
“Nobody besides me, I guess.”
When a man’s had enough, he’s had enough. There are many things bourbon can fix but this seemingly isn’t one of them.
In Calvin G. Redbone Matt Phillips has created a character Jim Thompson would have been proud of and that ain’t no shit either. The pressure builds and builds inside the man’s head until the release valve blows its top and the tiny town of Bumblefuck Nowhere is swept away in his new-born rage. Armed with his trusty Louisville Slugger, Calvin is left with little choice but to do what must be done to set things straight again. So that’s just what he does.
Apparently the author’s favourite bourbon is Wild Turkey and it’s mine too. Why? Because that’s what Hunter S. used to drink and if it’s good enough for the doctor, then it’s good enough for me.
‘Redbone is out now through Number Thirteen Press.

http://www.numberthirteenpress.com/



Wednesday, 5 August 2015

The wit and the wisdom of Bob Mould and Hüsker Dü.

My brother gave me this album (Warehouse: Songs and Stories) for my twenty-third birthday. He knew that Hüsker Dü were my favourite band and now another twenty-three years later they still are. As incredible as the album is for some reason the part that has always stuck with me is Bob Mould's liner notes on the fold-out cover (we're talking about vinyl records back in those days). 

As the band matured and the members grew up hard and fast over the nine years they were together there appeared a reluctant maturity from within the maelstrom of their existence. The existence that was to be torn apart shortly after the release of this album by the drummer's heroin addiction and their manager's suicide. I still wear one of their t-shirts to gigs and am always approached by musicians who share my love of the band and their irrepressible and hugely emotional music. They were definitely not everyone's cup of tea but if everybody were to agree with you there would absolutely no chance that you were right.




"Sometimes you feel real old, older than you are. Check the aches and pains, the hairline, the demands of life. Responsibilities, responsibilities. Worse things have happened to all of us; the circus wasn’t as good as you thought it would be, the movie stunk, etc., etc…

"Punching the clock, punching the wall, hating your boss. You can’t go if you don’t know, and you can’t know if you don’t go. And everybody in the world has their own song in their heads. The best songs ever. Problem is figuring a way to get them out and present them to others.

"You’ve got to know where the brakes are. Enjoy life at a realistic pace. You crazy youngsters, what with your nightlife and everything. And it’s important to trust other people while putting stock in yourself as well. Re-evaluating your priorities, checking yourself daily.

"Not everybody is a victim of circumstance; conversely, nobody should feel like a martyr all the time. Problem? It’s hard enough to communicate these days; some of us don’t even get the chance. Some others don’t know they have a chance.

"When you travel frequently, you find a lot of images. And sometimes, you have to try and make the best of a bad situation: more often than not, we grin and bear it. Other times, you learn to enjoy some small facet of your predicament. Nothing too elaborate, just an attempt to adjust priorities. Revolution starts at home, preferably in the bathroom mirror.

"Example? Winter always comes too soon. This year was the worst I can remember, except when I was five years old. Pushed open the front door, got lost in the snow." - Bob Mould

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Review of the new Arnaldur Indriðason novel 'Oblivion' by Grant Nicol.


Arnaldur Indriðason’s ‘Hypothermia’ was the first Icelandic crime novel I ever picked up and read. I can’t remember exactly when that was but it feels like an awfully long time ago now and it’s hard to believe that this is the eleventh book in his Reykjavík Murder Mysteries series. The eleventh translated into English anyway. When he first started writing crime fiction in the late 90s many people here in Iceland laughed at him as it had never really been done before and wasn’t taken at all seriously by the literary crowd on this little island.

My how times have changed.

In 2003, he had five novels on the Icelandic best-sellers list for a week and is the only author other than J.K. Rowling to simultaneously hold the top three spots. In 2004, his books were 7 of the 10 most popular titles borrowed in Reykjavík City Library. He single-handedly launched Icelandic crime fiction as a legitimate international entity and since then it has not only joined the ranks of its Scandinavian counterparts but in many ways overtaken them with the hugely successful Yrsa Sigurðardóttir and the much more recent phenomenon Ragnar Jónasson. Other Icelandic crime writers to have been translated into English include Viktor Arnar Ingólfsson and Árni Þórarinsson who I am sure will be joined by the likes of« FYRRI
Sólveig Pálsdóttir and Lilja Sigurðardóttir (no relation to Yrsa) in the not too distant future such is the

depth of talent here now.

In ‘Oblivion’ we are once again heading back in time as we did in ‘Reykjavík Nights’. It’s 1979 and Erlendur and Marion Briem, his mysteriously genderless boss, are investigating the discovery of a body found sunken in a remote milky-blue pond that sounds suspiciously like the predecessor of today’s internationally famous ‘Blue Lagoon’ spa. The unlucky chap didn’t drown in the warm run-off water from the nearby Svartsengi power station though but rather died elsewhere after a fall from a great height before being dumped in the blue soup in an awkward attempt to hide his body from the world.

And if it hadn’t been for an imaginative psoriasis sufferer trying to relieve her itching arms he might just have stayed there until the recent tourist boom when he would have been charged retrospectively for all those hours spent lolling about at their precious resort. He is soon identified as one of the local contractors who work at the American Naval Air Station at Miðnesheiði where he had access to the enormous Hangar 885 that was designed to be large enough to hold even the mighty B-36 bombers. Iceland’s relationship with their American ‘friends’ is strained at the best of times and this really puts their ability to work together to the test. A number of conspiracy theories emerge as motives for the murder involving America’s intelligence agencies, illegal movement of weapons, nuclear deterrents and an airbase in Greenland. Hangar 885 seems to be the most exciting and dangerous place in the whole country and with the help of an outsider on the inside Erlendur and Marion are determined to get to the bottom of it all.

As if he doesn’t already have enough to do Erlendur is also obsessed with a cold case that dates back to the days of the American barracks on the site of the modern day Vesturbæjarlaug swimming pools. Once the Americans abandoned the barracks they became ghetto housing for impoverished locals known as Camp Knox (Kamp Knox was the original title of the book). When he’s not chasing shadows at the secretive air-base he’s reopening old wounds with questions about the disappearance of Dagbjört on her way to school past Camp Knox one day. There’s a creepy connection reminiscent of a scene in ‘American Beauty’ with her oddball neighbour Rasmus but no real leads of any sort to go on apart from an alleged boyfriend from the ‘Camp’. This doesn’t deter Erlendur in the slightest because he’s not the sort of guy who gives up on anything. Elsewhere in the country two men are lost in a blizzard bringing back painful memories of Erlendur’s childhood for him. A theme that is revisited in the later books and which plays a central role in the detective’s psyche.

Indriðason’s writing is short and clipped in the same way that Ellroy’s is but without the alliteration and epoch-defining colloquialisms. It’s simple, sometimes disarmingly so, and that is why it works so well. Good crime fiction needs straightforward ideas and short sentences. There are very few writers in this genre who deliver such consistent quality as this guy does and this book is no exception. I used to read his books so that I would learn something about Iceland until the day came when I would finally make the place my home. I’m living here now and I’m still learning about the history of the place from him. Just another reason why I love this guy’s books so much.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

'My Petrochemical Romance'

Gunnar Davíðsson’s review of ‘The Abrupt Physics of Dying’ by Paul Hardisty.

 

On New Year’s Eve if you had come up to me and told me that my favourite book of 2015 was going to be an ‘ecological thriller’ set in Yemen I would have laughed my ass off. In fact I would have rolled around in the snow laughing so hard that champagne would have come out my nose. And then everybody would have figured out that I’d been drinking. And then I would have assumed that you were drunk too. Really drunk. Shitfaced drunk in fact. I would have got back up on my feet, lit the rest of our fireworks and howled at the moon as you told me all about Claymore Straker and his Middle East antics in the pursuit of truth, justice and the Yemeni way. But I would have been wrong. And you my friend would have been very, very right. This is probably one of the biggest surprises I’ve had reading for quite some time.

An Afrikaans speaking ex-member of the South African Army, Claymore Straker finds himself in a very different field of work these days. He works the Yemeni oilfields doing environmental impact studies and procuring drilling licenses for some new faceless oil producing multinational. The locals are somewhat less endeared with his company’s work ethics than the local tax officials are as they watch their women and children dying from a mystery illness. So unimpressed in fact that Claymore and his driver are kidnapped and he is made an offer he can’t refuse. He is to uncover the cause of the sickness that is sweeping the community and publicise his findings or he will never see his friend and driver Abdulkader alive again. So he sets out on a mission to uncover what is happening to their water supply and in the process finds lies, pain, suffering and horrendous crimes on an international scale, and of course a girl. He is lied to, beaten up, shot at and loses a couple of fingers. And that’s just the first night with the girl. Boy oh boy!

The story is action packed, brilliantly paced and written in a voice that you simply don’t want to let go of. I found myself pulled back to its pages time and time again as I hungered to know what was going to happen to Clay next. At 430 pages it is a longer read than many other books I have read lately but is so beautifully written that you won’t mind it’s length one bit. In fact by the end you’ll find yourself wishing it was a little longer.

As I finished the book last night and put it down reluctantly for the last time my attention was instantly drawn to another tale of  unrest and injustice in the form of ‘Dirty Wars’ on RUV a real life tale of illegal killings and sanctioned assassinations by the US’s JSOC forces. The parallels are undeniable. The concerns of the Western world have literally become a law unto themselves. The difference between the ways our laws were written and the way they are now interpreted to suit the purposes of governments or multinationals has become truly disturbing. Lives count for nothing once they are viewed as an obstacle in the way of a money-making machine. It isn’t surprising that the West is hated the way it is and the saddest part is that we have brought this about ourselves.

When the sky is torn

When the stars are shattered

When the seas are poured forth

When the tombs are bust open

Then a soul will know what is given

And what is held back

So next New Year’s Eve my resolution will be to not blow champagne bubbles out my nose and to keep a much more open mind about what I will be reading in the year to come. I could have missed out on ‘The Abrupt Physics of Dying’ and that would have been a real tragedy.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Hummingbirds, punk rock and under-privileged puffins... all in a day's work in Finland.


Having just returned from CrimeFest15 in sunny Bristol I have to admit to having been slightly overwhelmed during my three days there by the number of authors to meet and the sheer volume of books to read or at least to put on my ‘to read as soon as I physically can’ list. I didn’t wind up with too much in the way of reading time anyway what with panels to listen to, sights to see and late night shenanigans to participate in but I did finish the one book I took with me as my CrimeFest travelling companion.

‘The Hummingbird’ by Finnish author and punk rock superstar Kati Hiekkapelto is about an immigrant police officer recently assigned to a small coastal town in the north of Finland. Anna Fekete soon finds herself investigating a string of seemingly random murders while also trying to help the daughter of a local immigrant family. An ongoing conflict with one of her workmates and a brother who is only slightly better than completely hopeless combine to give Anna plenty of doubts about her ability to stick things out in her new home.

‘The Hummingbird’ is the most interesting book in the genre I've read since Antti Tuomainen's 'The Healer' (also Finnish – I’m starting to see a pattern emerging here) and is well worth checking out. It is different (in a really good way) from the usual Nordic Noir fare and very intelligently written. Anna is an engaging and human protagonist who is easy to identify with as well as being easy to like. Kati's second book, 'The Defenceless' is coming out in the UK in September and on the evidence of this book will be well worth investigating.

In the meantime Kati and her band ‘The Bearded Women’, which consists of Kati on vocals, one of her friends playing guitar and a drum machine that is so stubborn it will only play one beat for them (Huh… Drummers!) will continue to attempt world domination from their outpost base on the island of Hailuoto at the top end of the Gulf of Bothnia. I also have it on good authority that becoming a bestselling author and chart-topping punk diva won’t even get close to satisfying this ambitious woman. She has much grander dreams in the pipeline.

In 2016 she intends to circumambulate Iceland using its famous Ring Road. This televised event - it will be covered in its entirety by Iceland’s national broadcaster RUV who will dedicate a new 24 hour channel to her exploits in an attempt to bring gripping Icelandic reality television to the rest of the world - will be done to raise money for immigrant puffins and in particular to finance the education of their children. Education of under-privileged seabirds has been a passion of Kati’s for many years now. As you see she is clearly a multi-talented woman who is continually pushing the boundaries of crime fiction, punk rock and imaginative fundraising campaigns.

At some point in the not too distant future I am going to be held accountable for the tiny portion of this article which I may have made up. In the meantime I am simply going to enjoy it as I think it will take people a ridiculous amount of time to figure it which bit it actually is. I was going to include Kati’s stage name in the article but have been warned by my publisher that the use of such language will have me fired from the company once again and I’m not ready to go back on a diet of dried fish and watered-down vodka. That shit really sucks!


Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Moving on is about fixing your life while never forgetting theirs.


“I spent a lot of time doing nothing. No radio, no TV. Nothing. I just couldn’t stand the sound of music. I was scared of music. I remember being in Ireland driving around the country away from everything. Just rocks and moss and sheep and being totally disconnected from the rest of the world. And I drive past this kid who was hitchhiking. He had a fucking Kurt Cobain shirt on. I saw that and I thought ‘fuck I gotta do something quick’ and then I realised that music was the one thing that was gonna help me out of that place so I started writing again.”

Grohl then travelled to Seattle where he recorded the entire debut Foo Fighters album himself.

 
 

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

'Summerchill', the new novella from Quentin Bates.


When Logi finds a gun hidden on his work site in the countryside he immediately sees it as an opportunity to make some quick money. Unsure of exactly what to do with it though he hangs onto it until an opportunity to cash in on it presents itself. Danni, his former brother-in-law then asks him to do some under-the-table work for some particularly shady characters and he sees yet another opportunity to make some quick money that he won’t have to tell the taxman about. He makes use of his Polish workmates from his other job to get the job done as quickly as possible but after an unexpected visit from a disreputable and overly serious debt collector he suddenly needs their assistance on an entirely different matter altogether.

As the local Icelandic cops Gunna and Helgi struggle to make sense of the strange and alarming shenanigans that quickly ensue all over Reykjavík they are led from one disaster to the next in pursuit of a motley band of criminally minded individuals. It is almost impossible for them to tell who’s hiding what. All they know is that nearly everyone they deal with has something to hide be it minor indiscretions or major crimes. Their job for the rest of the story is trying to tell the difference between the two.

The shortened length of the crime novella is not in my opinion a reason to avoid such works but rather one to embrace them. They have all the plot points and punch of the longer form but without the constraints of the procedural paradigm. This one in particular moves along with the grace that one would expect of an experienced novelist but contains a momentum that is unrelenting simply because it has to get where it’s going a little sooner than might usually be expected.

Quentin’s characters are fun and completely believable as his feel for Icelanders has been firmly honed by his many years spent living here. This is a great read and while it is technically just a stopgap in between novels I hope it’s not the last we’ve seen of the novella length works from him as this one is really entertaining and you will struggle to put it down once you’ve started it. ‘Summerchill’ will be released on Thursday and is only available for kindle. It is already flying up the charts from pre-sales alone.