Cold Fear

Written by Mads Peder Nordbo

Review written by Jon Morgan

Jon Morgan is a retired police Superintendent and francophile who, it is said, has consequently seen almost everything awful that people can do to each other. He relishes quality writing in all genres but advises particularly on police procedure for authors including John Harvey and Jon McGregor. Haunts bookshops both new and secondhand and stands with Erasmus: “When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I may buy food and clothes.”

Cold Fear
Text Publishing
RRP: £10.99
Released: November 28, 2019

An intelligent but very dark Scandi gore-fest with an ever-rising body-count!

Set in in Greenland and jumping from the mid-1990’s to almost the present day this compelling thriller features a 1990’s quasi-legal medical experiment on US army personnel stationed in Greenland as well as the children of one of them — the only one to apparently survive a bloody shoot-out — all concerned being adversely affected, mentally by the medication given them, to better equip special forces for deployment in sub-zero temperatures.

It also highlights deep-seated environmental and local social problems of a declining, and in places ravaged, economy and the perils of life, or rather subsistence, on the Arctic Circle.

Rape, incest, multiple murder, abduction and to top it off, highly dangerous, cannibalistic and deeply mentally ill, extreme Christian fundamentalists, (is that tautology?). That said, just about everyone is, or by the end of the novel, will be, affected and mentally scarred by the events depicted in it. Throw in local governmental corruption and illegal pharmaceutical experimentation on local people and you get a really toxic mix.

The plot is frankly just too damned labyrinthine to summarise and you will have to read it, right to the last page to get the full flavour of a little known part of the world that lacks daylight for a significant part of the year, is of immense strategic importance, not just to the United States but other ‘superpowers’ who have, or want to, get their fingers into the pie for mineral, territorial and other exploitation. All this is compounded by the rule of Greenland by Denmark and a burgeoning independence movement amongst the Inuit and native Greenlanders.

I am not sure I fully understood the role of some of the characters particularly a young woman, recently released from prison, who was convicted of multiple murder whilst a child, as she veers between a ‘good-guy’ fixated on vengeance for past rapes and sexual assaults perpetrated on her and a possible link with the drug experiments and trained assassins.  

The crime, all of it, is treated almost casually, not simply as a device by the author but by the police, perpetrators and residents, as well. Rape and incest are casually accepted as being part and parcel of the life lived by isolated communities with rather shallow gene pools.

You can thoroughly enjoy this thriller but be prepared to be deeply disturbed by aspects of it. It could also do with a character list and a glossary of how to pronounce the names.  As an aside, you also get the sense of the rationale (if anything about the man can bear that term) for Trump’s recent offer to buy Greenland.

This is the second in a series featuring Matthew Cave and Tuparnaaq Cold Skin is the first which I will now be sourcing.

Charlotte Barslund (Translator)

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