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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Girl in the Ice. Lotte and Soren Hammer (Writers). Paul Norlen (Translation). Bloomsbury (2010).

A very engaging and thoughtful Danish crime story. The body of a woman is found frozen in the ice in Greenland far from any inhabited location. Detective Chief Konrad Simonsen leads the investigation and the details of case remind him of a previous, unsolved, murder. A very clever reveal points at a plausible suspect from the outset of the investigation and the story moves from there in unexpected and engaging ways. The story unfolds with great force as a dark history in uncovered and the investigation slowly closes in on the suspect until events force Konrad Simonsen to make very hard decisions.
The plot mechanics are excellent, with the opening setting the stage reader expectations are smartly managed as the story becomes different from what had been apparently set up. The early reveal that places the focus of the investigation firmly on a suspect creates the room to move the investigation to trying to establish if there are connections between the two murders and the suspect. As the investigation proceeds and the tantalizing information become available, it is never conclusive and the investigation is  persistently caught between knowing and proving. A sharp plot move moves the story to a gripping final section as trouble strikes directly at the investigation.
A nicely set up sub plot regarding the site in Greenland where the murder victim worked and powerful people in the Danish government is unfurled with great care. The intersection between power and a police investigation is examined with finesse, the way that power is used is demonstrated with great flair.
The cast are hugely engaging, Konrad Simonsen is thoughtful, competent and suffering with some health issues. He brings consistent clarity of thought to the investigation as the rest of the team find themselves entangled by ambition and events that create problems for them.
The narrative gives the rest of the investigative team plenty of time to reveal themselves to the reader, they emerge with their frailties and plans credibly set up and engaging. They all respond to the increasing pressure of the investigation differently and credibly, the confrontations with each other and events are forceful because they never feel staged.
Paul Norlen's translation is invisible and natural, the story emerges as clearly Danish, the language fits to it without feeling foreign or imposed on the story.
This is a quiet book, the action when it arrives is intense and fierce gripping. Really smart crime fiction that confidently leads the reader on an unexpected and very rewarding path, a great read. 

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