By Quentin Bates
Published by Constable (11 October 2018)
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher
Gunnhildur reluctantly allows herself to be taken off police duties to act as bodyguard to a man with a price on his head . . .
Hidden away in a secure house outside Reykjavík, Gunna and the high-profile stranger, a guest of the interiors minister, are thrown together - too close for comfort. They soon find they are neither as safe nor as carefully hidden as Gunna and her boss had thought. Conflicting glimpses of the man's past start to emerge as the press begin to sniff him out, as does another group with their own reasons for locating him. Gunna struggles to come to terms with protecting the life of a man who may have the lives of many on his conscience - or indeed may be the philanthropist he claims to be.
Isolated together, the friction grows between Gunna and the foreign visitor, and she realises they are out of their depth as the trails lead from the house outside Reykjavík to Brussels, Russia and the Middle East.
Cold Breath is a twisty mix of Icelandic police procedural and action thriller.
Gunna is acting as bodyguard to a guest of the interiors minister, but doesn't know why she's been asked to do this job. Her foreign charge is as cagey as everyone else who knows where he's in hiding, yet they're having to live in very close proximity - too close at times. Gradually Gunna begins to piece together his history, and his past, and doesn't like everything she finds, leading her to wonder who she's really protecting - and why. She's not the only one with questions, as there's a relentless journalist on their trail, and also some ruthless killers on the loose, determined to discover where this high-profile visitor is being hidden.
Cold Breath features several strands, all equally intriguing, following the various different characters, from police officers and journalists to the determined villains. Gradually, these individual strands weave together to reveal a complex well-planned plot. It soon became clear to me that nothing was clearcut, with the killers and the press closing in, culminating in an action-packed explosive ending.
Gunna is a tough cookie, yet also has plenty of heart, focusing as much on her family as on her job - and she definitely brings the story to life. I have read the previous book in this series, but haven't yet read any of the others, yet there's enough backstory here to be able to read Cold Breath as a standalone. The chilling Icelandic setting is a perfect backdrop, and the author's vivid evocative descriptions transported me there myself - feeling the freezing temperatures, experiencing suburban life just outside Reykjavik and seeing the starkness of more-remote areas. Quentin Bates lived in Iceland for a decade and still visits the country every year, and this personal knowledge of Icelandic culture shows in his writing.
Cold Breath is a gripping read and a great addition to any Nordic Noir crime shelf.
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