Quentin Bates talks to Bookbag about about ''Thin Ice''

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Thin Ice (Officer Gunnhildur) by Quentin Bates

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Author Quentin Bates popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us about Thin Ice, the seventh book in his Officer Gunnhildur series.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: March 2016
Publisher: CONSTABLE
ISBN: 978-1472121493

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It's not about crime, it's about people

Putting together characters who don't belong anywhere near each other and watching them react to each other is a huge part of the fun of writing a crime story – and however frustrating it may sometimes be, writing should be just that; fun. If the author doesn't enjoy writing it, then there's a good chance nobody else will enjoy reading it.

Thin Ice features a couple of thieves, a pair of unfortunate characters who are brought together by chance. The older thief, Össur, has been a criminal all his life and has never for a second considered the ridiculous idea of making an honest living. The younger of the two thieves, Magni the former fisherman, has found himself pitched headlong into crime after losing his job. These seagoing days jobs don't grow on trees in Iceland and instead of doing what he does best, Magni finds himself rapidly out of his depth.

The two thieves make a mistake. They had planned to carry out a robbery and make an immediate escape to the sunshine a long way further south with a bag of money lifted from one of the city's premier dope dealers, knowing that they would be unlikely to be caught in the hour or two between their smart heist and their flight taking off for Spain where they can disappear among the Costa expats. But things don't always go as we plan. Career criminal Össur and accidental criminal Magni find themselves alarmingly adrift and in increasingly hot water as they carjack two women to make a desperate escape.

That's almost as far as I can go without any serious plot spoilers. Let's just say that Össur, Magni and the two unfortunate women find themselves thrown together in an unhappy embrace and the tension thickens with a big pile of money and a very uncertain future ahead of them.

My rotund heroine, Sergeant Gunnhildur Gísladóttir of the Reykjavík city police and her two colleagues, middle-aged Helgi and keen young Eiríkur, don't have much to work with. Two women have failed to return home and it's Gunna's job to find out if they are alive and well, while Eiríkur and Helgi investigate the death of another small-time criminal in a house fire that soon looks like a case of arson and murder rather than an unfortunate domestic accident. At the same time, the underworld is looking for the thieves who have had the suicidal effrontery to turn on one of their own.

It's a difficult situation for all of them. Össur and Magni don't trust each other but have no choice. The two women don't trust either of them, but plots are made and alliances formed, plus there's a big pile of money there that a great many people would like to get their hands on, not least the man they stole it from to begin with.

This is where writing a crime story gets interesting; it's the throwing together of very different characters and seeing how they react to each other, especially when they are taken far from their usual comfort zones without the toys, tools and home comforts they are used to having at their sides.

Take four contrasting personalities, snow them in together in a shut-for-the-winter hotel with no wifi and see what happens. It's like watching an explosive situation develop, by taking all the ingredients, adding them to the mix one at a time and watching as the pressure builds, alliances and loyalties form and dissolve… until something snaps and there's a reaction, which is where and when the plot should, ideally, move where you least expect it to.

(Editor's note: Quentin Bates also translated Rupture (Dark Iceland) by Ragnar Jonasson.

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