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Cold Comfort: An Officer Gunnhildur Mystery by Quentin Bates
Cover Artist: Photo: Izzy Mcgoff / Getty Images
Review by Verna Suit
Soho Crime Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781616950545
Date: 17 January 2012 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Omar (Long Ommi) Magnusson has escaped from prison in Iceland and is going around beating up people who falsely testified against him. Fitness expert and sometime party girl Svanna Geirs falls into that category and now meets a violent death in her apartment. Ommi's a big, scary guy who likes to hit people, but would he resort to murder? Or is Svanna's death related to the sex syndicate she's involved in together with several of Reykjavik's leading citizens?

Sgt. Gunnhildur (Gunna) Gisladottir of the Reykjavik PD's Serious Crime Unit is on the case. In addition to the above crimes, she and her team soon must deal with arson at the home of real estate speculator Bjartmar Arnarson and later his murder. Looming over everything in the story is Iceland's financial crash, which has left unfinished housing developments, bankruptcies, unemployment, and provides the basis for the plot. Some people react to the recession in typical Icelandic fashion: It'll work out. But others become desperate enough to kill.

The Officer Gunnhildur series of police procedurals began with last year's Frozen Assets, but this second installment is a superior book. Both pacing and plotting are better. Many characters return, including the young journalist Skuli whom Gunna met when he was assigned to shadow her for an article. Now he uses his press connections to get her background information when she needs it and in return she gives him news scoops. Gunna's schoolgirl daughter Laufey is still at home and keeps her updated on the plight of their neighbor and friend Sigrun, whose unemployed husband has gone to Norway for a job and taken his girlfriend with him.

Social commentary is as important as the plot in Cold Comfort. The investigation brings Gunna into contact with many levels of society and she's on a first-name basis with everyone. Usually she joins them for a cup of coffee. The mystery involves a complex mix of cases with complex solutions. In the end, threads are tied up nicely with justice delivered in unexpected ways. The plainspoken Icelandic people with their wonderful Hobbit-like names make Cold Comfort a fun book. I look forward to reading further about the life and times of Sergeant Gunna.

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