Review - The Mistake, Grant Nicol
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.
Everybody Makes Mistakes!
A mutilated body is found on a lonely street in Reykjavík.
Detective Grímur intends to see that justice is done.
Kjartan Jónsson vows that his daughter’s killer will be punished. And that the punishment will fit the crime.
Prime suspect Gunnar Atli desperately needs to prevent his own dark secrets from coming to light. And he’s not the only one.
Fine lines separate truth, justice and vengeance. Put a foot wrong, and any one of them could be making the biggest mistake of his life.
In Iceland, the winter shadows grow long...