Written by Quentin Bates — What do you do if you’re a Scandibrit writer and you’re told that Scandinavian crime stories always seem to take place in the winter months? Well, if you’re Quentin Bates, you decide to set your next book during the height of summer. That all too brief Icelandic summer, when temperatures soar to heights of… Well, the author is careful never to mention exact temperatures, but for most of the protagonists in his novella Summerchill it seems to be unnaturally high, leading to general malaise and tempers fraying.
Logi is a trained carpenter who somehow never got his business off the ground. His ex-wife Sandra is hassling him for money and he’s tired of being broke. While on a farm conversion job, together with a couple of Polish builders, he comes across a pistol. Despite his lack of familiarity with firearms, he keeps it. With his brother-in-law coming with a dodgy business proposition for him, and the debt collectors nipping at his heels, it’s just a matter of time before he gets involved in something far more serious and deadly than he’d foreseen.
Gunna and Helgi, the two 40-plus, very endearing detectives whom we’ve encountered in previous novels by Quentin Bates, get involved in Logi’s affairs via a missing person report. Slowly but doggedly they close in on Logi, who seems determined to get himself ever deeper into trouble.
This is very much Logi’s book: we are privy to his innermost thoughts and impulses. Although he ends up being the bad guy, we cannot help but feel for him, secretly hoping that he will get away with his evil deeds. In fact, the deeds themselves stem from recklessness, fear and sheer stupidity, rather than from a desire to do harm. This is no criminal mastermind we are talking about, but a simple man caught up in a dangerous game.
In the interview we did just a short while back, Quentin Bates stated that novellas are fun to write because you can bend the rules a little and experiment with things you might not necessarily try in a full length novel. We can certainly see this more playful style in Summerchill, though the topics it deal with – loan sharking and bankruptcy – are serious. Theres’s also the chance to find out more about Gunna’s male sidekick Helgi, who hitherto has taken a bit of a back seat. Although I miss the centre-stage presence of the feisty female detective, it’s nice to get a different point of view, which gives the series a fresh impetus. The greater focus on the criminals and the faster pace of the plotting are also enjoyable.
All in all, a very enjoyable quick read, which proves that crime does happen in Icelandic crime books even in summer. Perfect to take with you to the beach – or to any volcanoes you might be visiting.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars