When what appears to be the corpse of a mummified Viking is found, journalist Matthew Cave is first on the scene. But by the next day, the body is gone, and in its place lies the flayed corpse of the policeman left to keep watch. Silenced by the local constabulary as they investigate the crime, Matt explores his newspaper’s archives, uncovering an eerily similar series of unsolved murders from the 1970’s. Convinced of a connection, he and a young woman named Tupaarnaq start to investigate. But the inhabitants of the small town of Nuuk have much to hide, and some will go to any lengths to make sure their secrets remain buried beneath the ice.
Author Mads Peder Nordbo has crafted a believable, and occasionally stomach churning, tale of child abuse, murder, and decades long cover-ups, with the icy scenery of Greenland as much of a character as any of his walking and talking leads. Split between Matt’s 2014 investigations and extracts from the journal of Jakob Pederson, a cop assigned to the 1973 murders, The Girl Without Skin moves briskly along, with both Matt and Jakob coming tantalisingly close to the terrible truth.
There are some great reveals throughout, and much of the plotline falls satisfyingly into place as the truth comes out – pretty much a prerequisite for a crime thriller, I’d say! Honestly, if there’s anything more satisfying than having your suspicions about who the murderer is confirmed then I don’t want to know about it! Nordbo’s wonderful handling of the genre bodes very well for further books, with The Girl Without Skin marking the first in a new series from the Danish writer.
There’s a few missteps here and there – the revelation of what really happened to the girls feels a little convoluted, and Tupaarnaq doesn’t seem to serve that much of a purpose in the grand scheme of things (though we can likely expect more in the coming novels!) – but for the most part, The Girl Without Skin is a very satisfying thriller. Packed to the brim with grisly murders, corrupt officials, and sinister secrets, all set against the bleak, yet oddly beautiful, Greenlandic landscape, the bar has certainly been set quite high for the series to come.
THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Mads Peder Nordbo’s The Girl Without Skin (translated by Charlotte Barslund) is available now from Text Publishing.