Grant Nicol is an author who follows the story. Wherever it takes him, and he won’t stop until the story is firmly expressed in words. To start with, after several trips to the land of ice and fire he settled in Reykjavík and produced three books: On A Small Island, The Mistake and A Place to Bury Strangers: gritty, hard-biting, violent, threatening and quite unforgettable. Then Nicol moved to a different territory. He is now working on a new series set in Finland and featuring a new character, a Finnish detective Markku Waris. Judging by the way Nicol approaches the writing process and creating a tale, I expect a lot of powerful detail and nothing too gentle from him.
However, as a parting shot to Iceland and to the first series comes the latest novella Out On The Ice, soon to be sent to the wider world by the mavericks of the publishing industry Fahrenheit Press. Again, narration takes the author into the more lyrical and emotional zone. It is written from a female perspective. Detective Grímur Karlsson, known from Nicol’s Icelandic trilogy, makes an appearance, and this time even he is a softer, more delicate character.
Sóley, a young single mother to a four-year-old Jakob, struggles with her own feelings and the practicalities of everyday life. She adores her happy trusting son. Yet life is tough as under the surface of normality she is well aware that the menacing past will sooner or later catch up with the present. Despite this she plans to share her future with sensitive and decent Gísli, a struggling writer, who is completely in love with her. One day her ex-boyfriend Kaldi appears out of nowhere, or to be more precise, out of prison, after completing his sentence. Intimidation hangs in the air and things slowly start going wrong.
Kaldi, the father of Jakob, had promised he would never leave Sóley. The sense of impending doom and emotional turmoil takes over from more rational thinking, as Sóley tries to keep her little family together but then the dependable Gísli disappears for several days to Denmark. Kaldi is found dead. The Police get involved. Investigation, doubts,and fear follow and Gísli’s demeanour changes. He is impenetrable and out of control. Surrounded by a sea of unasked questions, reticent answers and strange moods, Sóley doesn’t know whom to believe or trust. Events turn more sinister, each decision appears to be wrong, and pure love exists no more. Twenty-three years later a tragic, desperate moment out on the ice seems never to be forgotten and shapes the lives of all who witnessed it forever.
My verdict? Well, I wouldn’t like to be one of the women in Grant Nicol’s books, but, hell, this wandering New-Zealander does capture the moods with such precision that it gets under your skin for a very long time.
- Ewa Sherman