Sunday, 26 March 2017

Advance review of 'Out On The Ice', out soon from Fahrenheit Press

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

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Eurocrime's Review of 'A Place To Bury Strangers'.

Detective Grímur Karlsson’s life isn’t a barrel of laughs. Ageing, depressed, dissatisfied with his professional life, he has become known for not solving crimes, and failing to secure arrests and convictions in his two last major cases. His world-weary cynicism has contributed to people losing lives. Occasionally he still fights his own unwillingness and loneliness to concentrate on the job. When he reluctantly starts to investigate the disappearance of Svandis, a run-away girl from a ‘good home’ and a seriously desperate heroin addict, it’s obvious that nobody believes in his abilities, including her family and her hapless boyfriend. Very soon the National Commissioner gets involved and orders Grímur to be taken off the case, though Svandis and her habit funded by prostitution don’t seem to warrant such a strong opposition from the establishment, as she is just one of many ‘sex workers’ who will agree to do anything to survive. Until of course some insignificant clues begin to appear to be pointing in the direction of certain powerful men. Yet it will be a while before the depressed policeman realises what is really going on: shortly after his superiors’ decision he became a target of a violent shooting when following another young woman who had seemed to be in danger.

As he lies in an induced coma in a hospital his boss Ævar and a colleague Eygló are called to a gruesome crime scene at a deserted building site. A charred body is found in a barrel; behind it on a wall an enigmatic message in Norwegian written in a black paint. The police establish that the corpse was of a drug dealer, low in the pecking order, and want to resolve the matter quickly, especially as there might be a perfect villain on the loose, searching for an ex-girlfriend in dodgy clubs in Reykjavik: the notorious Knut Vigeland. The Norwegian despises Iceland yet makes frequent business trips to the country: and so far his activities under the official radar had only damaged the local drug barons. Ævar is determined to tie him to both crimes.

A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS is New Zealander Grant Nicol’s third book set in Iceland. The author’s passion for the country doesn’t mean that the story revolves around picturesque landscapes and tourist attractions. Although some well-known landmarks are mentioned, for example the famous Perlan building, they become points of focus for the plot which mostly moves between the police station, various unsavoury places in the capital, and then further away in the suburbs where nothing good ever happens to the main characters. The use of the Icelandic setting helps to shed light on some perilous issues and deeply unhappy types, as the central drug problem is closely linked to the abuse of women. The narration jumps time-wise and adds to the clever confusion which keeps it interesting. This piece of writing isn’t for those who want things cosy and pretty. But if you are not afraid of getting to know the brutal underbelly of this island, then read about a gritty and violent place to (apparently) bury strangers.

Ewa Sherman, March 2017

'A Place To Bury Strangers' is out now through Fahrenheit Press:

Thursday, 9 March 2017

My Fourth Book 'Out On The Ice' To Be Released This Spring...!

                                'OUT ON THE ICE'... coming soon!

I have just this week signed a contract with publishing punk rockers Fahrenheit Press to publish my fourth book this spring. The novella will be entitled ‘Out On The Ice’ and will mark the end of my Icelandic Noir series set in Reykjavík, for the time being anyway. Having recently moved to Finland I am now working on a series set here featuring my new detective Markku Waris designed to make your hair stand on end and give you endless sleepless nights.

‘Out On The Ice’ is a novella of similar length to my book ‘The Mistake’. It is written from a female protagonist’s point of view much as my first book ‘On A Small Island’ was. It has a softer approach to the crime genre than my other books and revolves around a narrative of how love can go so terribly wrong. The story is told from Sóley’s perspective as she relives the last twenty-three years of her life and her struggles with her son Jakob, her boyfriend Gísli and the father of her child Kaldi. While Sóley tries so very hard to hold her little family together the men in her life strive only to wind up in trouble which they invariably do.

This book will allow the sun to set on Detective Grímur Karlsson’s career and my stories from Iceland before I launch my new Finnish series later in the year. ‘On A Small Island’ and ‘A Place To Bury Strangers’ are available now through Fahrenheit Press while ‘The Mistake’ is out through Number Thirteen Press.

‘On A Small Island:
‘The Mistake’:
‘A Place To Bury Strangers’: 

‘Out On The Ice’ will be released just in time for my appearance at this year’s Dekkarit Festival in Varkaus, Finland. The Dekkarit Festival is a crime writing festival like no other and features a variety of multi-media events including a drive-in cinema. Anyone thinking of making a trip to glorious Finland at any point will do well to consider dropping in on Varkaus this July 28-30.

Festival website:

At the moment the website is only in Finland but an English version will be available soon. Summer in Finland is a treat not to be missed with the temperatures here reaching heights that the UK and other parts of Europe could only dream of. We all hope to see you there!

Here you can read the opening paragraph of 'Out On The Ice':

“Don’t go out on the ice,” was the first thing Gísli said to me when he saw little Jakob out on that frozen lake. That was twenty years ago now. It was the first thing he’d said to me all day I actually listened to and it is the last thing I remember him ever saying to me. I know there were other words spoken or screamed across the ice as I tried to get the two of them to come back to me. Back where they belonged, safe and sound in my arms. But it is that particular line that has stuck in my head over the passage of the years and I hear it again every time I look at my beautiful boy who has now become a man. And wonder what might have been.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Thoughtful review of 'The Mistake'

"The novella THE MISTAKE is short, sharp, packed with a punch crime fiction set in Iceland, written by ex-pat New Zealander Grant Nicol. Set in Reykjavik, there's a lot that's laid on the line, as you'd expect in something constrained by length. There's been a brutal murder and the clear suspect is on the scene. A troubled man, prone to blackouts, discovers a body in his own yard and it looks like it's done and dusted. Especially when the suspect, Gunnar Atli, has secrets to hide. On the other side of the equation is a cop who is determined to prove beyond reasonable doubt, and a father who seems equally determined to ensure justice is delivered for his daughter.

A simple premise on the face of it, but layered and complicated beautifully throughout, this is a story that keeps the reader constantly guessing. Not just about what really happened, but how the victim ended up as a victim, what is it that everybody is trying to hide, and obviously, did Atli actually kill this troubled young woman. Along the way there are plenty of things about all societies these days to consider - domestic violence, prostitution and the treatment of the mentally ill for starters.

Whilst character development does take a little bit of a back stall in THE MISTAKE, there's enough depth there to give you a feeling for these people, and what they think and feel. The plot has considerable focus, as the tussle between convenience and conclusion play out. What's particularly strong however, is atmosphere. There's something wonderfully dark and slightly creepy about this tale, bringing a different viewpoint to expectations of something that seems as overwhelmingly peaceful or at least considered as Icelandic society.

Given how short THE MISTAKE is you could be excused for feeling somewhat let down, as it feels like the sort of story that could have expanded, but fortunately Nicol has a first, full-length novel - ON A SMALL ISLAND - out if you're of a mind to keep going with this author's writing. It's a different set of characters, and a different scenario, but there's that same absorbing, all encompassing atmosphere.

Both of these outings are definitely well worth a look if you're a fan of the darker, less cut and dried, nuanced side of crime fiction."

'The Mistake' is out now through Number Thirteen Press - 

Grant's other two books 'On A Small Island'

and 'A Place To Bury Strangers'  

are out now through Fahrenheit Press. His fourth and final Icelandic Noir book 'Out On The Ice' will be published by Fahrenheit Press in June.