Author: Heine Bakkeid (Translator: Anne Bruce)
Rating: 5 Stars
Dates read: 22 Nov 19 – 24 Nov 19
Publication date: 14 Nov 2019
Publisher: Bloomsbury Raven Books
Genre(s): Crime, Nordic Noir, Thriller
The first in a new Norwegian crime series featuring disgraced ex-Chief Inspector Thorkild Aske, a damaged man with a complicated past
Fresh out of prison and a stint in a psychiatric hospital, disgraced ex-policeman Thorkild Aske only wants to lose himself in drugged dreams of his beloved Frei. Wild, unknowable Frei. The woman he loved. The woman he has lost forever.
Yet when Frei’s young cousin goes missing off the Norwegian coast and Thorkild is called in by the family to help find him, dead or alive, Thorkild cannot refuse. He owes them this.
Tormented by his past, Thorkild soon finds himself deep in treacherous waters. He’s lost his reputation – will he now lose his life?
*I was given an ARC of this book courtesy of Bloomsbury, Raven Books in exchange for an honest and fair review*
I haven’t read many thrillers and examples of crime fiction this year (there is no particular reason – just the ups and downs of an avid reader) so when Bloomsbury invited me to join the blog tour for I Will Miss You Tomorrow I was really excited. I love thrillers and crime novels and this newly translated Nordic Noir sounded like something I would really like. Folks, it absolutely blew me away. It was an incredibly present and atmospheric crime novel and is the first in a series that promises more of ex-Chief Inspector Thorkild Aske and folks, I am here for this guy and this story.
The story is set in Northern Norway and follows a police inspector tasked with locating a the body of a man, the cousin of the girl he loved and tragically lost. The fjord, lighthouse, and stormy weather collide to form a mysterious and macabre atmosphere that permeates through the story to create a creepy atmosphere that tricked the brain into walking the line between the actual and imagined. This suspenseful atmosphere added to the characters unreliable nature, and the distrust that all the story’s participants have when they meet him which was an ingenious addition to the plot and to the character development of the lead, but also the eventual story arc across the series.
The main character Thorkild Aske is a classic example of an unreliable narrator. His internalised guilt and innate talent for crime solving create a heady concoction within the body and mind of a broken man. His present is an aftermath of a tragic incident that unfolds through flashback chapters, where we learn of his relationship with the enigmatic Frei. It is explained early on that he was responsible and ultimately imprisoned for her death, with the book starting upon his release from prison. This set-up was a great way to introduce elements of the characters greater narrative and his past, that set up both the story itself and the series as a whole, and tempted the reader with enough information to want to stick around for the series as a whole, and to track how important such events were on the plot of the novel.
I think its safe to say that Thorkild is not a nice character. He is flawed, addicted to prescription medication, mentally volatile and prone to suicidal and harmful acts upon himself, and generally a very pessimistic character to occupy the head space of throughout a book. While I was concerned I would find it hard to read because if this, his unrelenting nature of his reality and his predicament was humbling and addictive and I found myself really wanting to battle alongside him. Throughout the book he is challenged by grief and ideas of inadequacy which I think are themes we can all recognise. His negativity, while all encompassing, was a fuel for the story and without his laser focus and determination that he was experiencing and feeling the actions within the book and not imagining them in his head was a really power plot driver.
The actual plot follows the hunt for Rasmus, Frei’s cousin who has gone missing in a Northern Norwary town. His family employ him, despite his actions and his disgraced status as an ex-chief inspector, and he travels to track down the gent and bring him back to his family dead or alive. We have no idea what is going on in the town, what happened to him, but as the story progresses and more and more characters are introduced, go missing, are injured, the story develops into a complicated web that centres around the mystery of Rasmus’s disappearance and Thorkild’s flawed investigative skilled and questionable reputation.
I have a pretty strong stomach, and have to say that some of the more grotesque features of the book were a little difficult to read. The body of a dead woman with no jaw, tongue hanging between her breasts, or the graphic description of an autopsy were not for the faint hearted, but provided a viscerally read and required element to the book. The appearance and disappearance of different characters and bodies, the lack of mental clarity of the lead character, his impaired function when under the influence, and the suspenseful atmosphere of the book’s setting created an almost otherworldly/horror element that added to the psychological element of the book and really made both Thorkild, and myself as a reader, question what was really happening.
The only minute, and it really is a minute issue with the book is the matter of factness of the writing style. I don’t know if this is in the translation or whether it is in the author’s style, but at times it was a little abrupt and this is this, that is that. I do think it fitted with the book and the sale of the plot, but there were a couple of times where I would have preferred a slightly more effusive use of language. It didn’t detract from my enjoyment at all, just a small observation.
This is Bakkeid’s first foray into crime fiction and I really works. It was a psychological roller coaster, an atmospheric novel filled with distrust, and that a brilliant new entry into a popular and explored genre of recent years. It felt different and new, and was a great example of how uncertainty and unreliability can fuel the most intriguing of mysteries.