The Frozen Woman, by Jon Michelet – book review

51Dg5T97A+L._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_Contains mild spoilers. Today we welcome the blog tour for The Frozen Woman, which is being published in English roughly 20 years after its Norway debut. Here’s a novel that’s full of surprises: a police procedural that spends a great deal of time presenting the point of view of a cynical bikers gang, a novel that (in Don Bartlett’s translation) veers from the prosaic to the philosophical, a piece of fiction that opens windows into the banal thought processes of its lead characters and also shows us their genius, a tale without any heroes.

There is in this tale no honour among thieves. The leadership of the Seven Samurai bike gang spend as much time looking to double-cross each other as they do trying to get an edge on their great rivals, the Kamikaze. We spend a bit of time with two of the bikers, and we find some sympathy for one in particular who would rather have taken a different path. Michelet does well here: even though we don’t condone some of the gang’s activities, we get a real sense of the lives of the gang members. As a result, this story feels really rich though it is more like a mystery that moves between differing communities sharing a country but living separate lives, rather than giving us a showdown between two opposing forces. Norway’s problems are, we understand, varied, though the reader is invited to make up their own mind as to which are more serious.

This is a book that has made me think new thoughts about what it is like to grieve, but it is never po-faced. Consider that these two sentences share a page:

He was full of wild stories and grandiose plans, and a bit of a blabbermouth.

When the young die in accidents something also dies in the adults who find them.

I like that the police leads are so ordinary. They bicker and yes, that’s a police procedural stable, but somehow these guys do it in a particularly relaxed way. They have hinterlands that seem normal, geeky, nerdy. They are distracted by screensaver and office politics and trains of thought. They make slow progress and much of the progress they do make is down to dumb luck rather than their own wit. The long delays remind me of the original Beck books. And speaking of Beck, there is a character called Gunvald Larsson who I assume at first (though I don’t think the dates line up) is so named in order to be sarcastic of Gunvald as portrayed in the films:

‘Remember, Larsson, you’re a lightweight and you have no training in arrests…you’re no bloody pitbull’

Gunvald does get his man. Indeed, all the perps get identified. But this is a novel that is interested more in creating a multi-layered world than in working out who may be a hero. This is one of many appealing features of The Frozen Woman: an intelligent read which revels in its ambiguity.

If I have a serious objection, it is to the blurb on the back of my advance copy which gives me the impression that we are to tackle issues of international crime: these are scratched at but not particularly addressed.

Get The Frozen Woman here.

Thanks to No Exit Press for the review copy. And do check out the other blogs taking part in the blog tour.

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