Title: The Girl Without Skin
Author: Mads Peder Nordbo
Published: October 1st 2018
Publisher: Text Publishing
Genres: Fiction, Crime, Mystery, Suspense
Rating: 4 stars
They were near the edge of the glacier. The sea beneath the helicopter was dense with pack ice. In front of them, the endless whiteness stretched as far as the light could reach. It hurt his eyes. Millions of white crystals. Except in one place. One spot. Right where the mummified Norseman had been found and Aqqalu had kept watch. There, the ice was glossy red.
When a mummified Viking corpse is discovered in a crevasse out on the edge of an ice sheet, journalist Matthew Cave is sent to cover the story. The next day the mummy is gone, and the body of the policeman who was keeping watch is found naked and flayed—exactly like the victims in a gruesome series of murders that terrified the remote town of Nuuk in the 1970s.
As Matt investigates, he is shocked by the deprivation and brutal violence the locals take for granted. Unable to trust the police, he begins to suspect a cover-up. It’s only when he meets a young Inuit woman, Tupaarnaq, convicted of killing her parents and two small sisters, that Matt starts to realise how deep this story goes—and how much danger he is in.
Labelled as ‘The Master of Arctic Crime’ Mads Peder Nordbo has released The Girl Without Skin, a 2018 Text publication. Originally published in 2017 in Denmark, my edition is a translated text from Charlotte Barslund. The Girl Without Skin offers a slick combination of thrills, chills, crime, culture, secrets and mystery, all within a distinct cold climate setting.
On an isolated ice sheet, a mummified corpse is discovered, believed to be a Viking. First on the scene is journalist Matthew Cave. But before Matthew has had the time to write the exclusive story, the body has vanished. The designated police officer guarding the scene is also discovered naked and splayed out. It doesn’t take long for Matthew Cave to connect the dots. He uncovers a link between the mummified corpse and a set of murders that occurred back in the 1970s. The further secrets come to light when Matthew probes into the murders. Then, Matthew’s connection to the case draws him to a Greenland local, a woman who plenty of weight to bear on a case that has backed him into a corner he cannot escape from.
Scandi crime noir is rarely a genre that I read, however, this book landed on my review pile and I have to say I was intrigued by the title and the blurb. With no expectations, I willingly surrendered to The Girl Without Skin and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed my introduction to the Nordic crime genre.
Initially, what grabbed me about this book was the overwhelming sense of place. As I sit typing up this review it is quite humid here, but as soon as I opened The Girl Without Skin, it was like a cold arctic draft engulfed me. I could sense the cold oozing from the pages of this book, it was a refreshing change and I appreciated being placed in the shoes of an investigative journalist located in Europe.
The main protagonist of The Girl Without Skin is a complex and troubled man, with a very sad past. This is covered in the first heartbreaking scenes. I felt my heart tear in two for Matthew. However, the experience seems to drive him to work harder and he completely immerses himself in the mummified corpse case. I have to say Matthew was a character that I had full confidence in for the entire duration of the novel, I wanted him to get to the bottom of this case. Working alongside Matthew is a strange Greenlandic woman, Tupaarnaq. The combination of these two very different souls worked well within the novel. The rich characterisation provided by Norbo, draws us further into these characters and the unfolding story.
There are plenty of harsh and icy plot lines to keep the reader engaged in The Girl Without Skin. A number of chilling moments added to the thrill side of this book. There are some graphic moments, so if you are squeamish, be warned! I did think that this aspect was in keeping with the overall tone of the book and the direction of the narrative. Mads Peder Nordbo knows how to keep up the line of suspense and he leaves the reader hanging, while timing his big reveals at just the right moment. I was pleased with the wrap up of this novel too, excellent work on behalf of the author, who I hope to revisit at some point in the future.
The Girl Without Skin by Mads Peder Nordbo was published on October 1st 2018 by Text Publishing. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Girl Without Skin, Mads Peder Nordbo visit here.
*I wish to thank Text Publishing for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.