Written by Grant Nicol — Number Thirteen Press has embarked on a project to publish 13 quality crime novellas and short novels. The contributions to this list are being published consecutively on the 13th of the month between November 2014 and November 2015. Following Michael Young’s Of Blondes and Bullets, and Steve Finbow’s Down Among The Dead, 13 January 2015 heralds the release of Reykjavik-dwelling author Grant Nichol’s crime novella The Mistake. The author is a New Zealander, but the book is set in Iceland.
The Mistake opens with the discovery of a horrific car crash scene in a lava field in rural Iceland. A young woman lies dead after exiting the car through the windshield. Dramatically, the seemingly lifeless body of a man suddenly reanimates with a screaming fit.
Cut to nine years later and Gunnar Atli Davidsson, who is prone to blacking out and losing periods of his life, stumbles upon a dead girl outside his house. Her body has been horrifically mutilated. To police detective Grimur Karlsson it seems a fairly open and shut case, with the revelation of Davidsson’s tortured past and underlying psychological problems. However, in the spirit of all police procedurals, there are secrets and lies galore not only in Davidsson’s neighbourhood but also in the dead girl’s estrangement from her family and her father’s quest for justice.
As the story spirals out to take in the details of Davidsson’s psychological treatment, and his link’s to the dead girl, Nicol takes us on a satisfying series of twists and curves towards a sordid and tragic conclusion. Obviously, with the condensed nature of the novella format, the characters do rather feel a little one-dimensional, as there is little scope for character development. They don’t seem that well fleshed out, and it’s easy to reduce them to a basic list of attributes. Karlsson is an effective enough police detective, Davidsson ticks the boxes as a potential murder suspect, Kjarten (the dead girl’s father) has simple enough reasons for retribution, Davidsson’s shrink is suitably creepy and so on.
At little over 100 pages, it’s a quick read with some nice touches vis-a-vis its cold and menacing Icelandic setting. The Mistake is a satisfying way to while away some time in a world of noir, and is certainly worth a look.
Number Thirteen Press
CFL Rating: 3 Stars