Tuesday, May 11, 2021

2021 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year - Longlist

The longlist for the 2021 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year has been announced and you can cast your vote on the website.



Saturday, May 01, 2021

New Releases - May 2021

Here's a snapshot of what I think is published for the first time in May 2021 (and is usually a UK date but occasionally will be a US or Australian date). May and future months (and years) can be found on the Future Releases page. If I've missed anything or got the date wrong, do please leave a comment.

• Bannalec, Jean-Luc - The Granite Coast Murders #6 Commissioner Dupin
• Billingham, Billy - Call to Kill #1 Matt Mason
• Bolton, Sharon - The Pact
• Bradby, Tom - Triple Cross #3 Kate Henderson
• Brittany, Amanda - The Perfect Nanny (with Karen Clarke)
• Candlish, Louise - The Skylight (Quick Reads Novella)
• Casey, Jane - The Killing Kind
• Castle, A M - The Invitation
• Chowdhury, Ajay - The Waiter
• Corrigan, J A - The Nurse
• Croft, Adam - In Cold Blood #3 Rutland crime series
• Dahl, Kjell Ola - The Assistant
• Dawson, Jeff - Hell Gate #3 Ingo Finch
• del Arbol, Victor - Above the Rain
• DeLuca, Marjorie - The Savage Instinct
• Dolan, Eva - One Half Truth #6 DI Zigic and DS Ferreira, Peterborough
• Downing, David - Wedding Station #7 John Russell
• Fitzek, Sebastian - Seat 7a
• Gardner, Frank - Outbreak #3 Luke Carlton, Ex-Special Boat Service commando
• Giordano, Mario - Auntie Poldi and the Lost Madonna #4 Auntie Poldi, Sicily
• Goldberg, Leonard - The Art of Deception #4 Daughter of Sherlock Holmes series
• Grimwood, Jack - Island Reich
• Hall, Traci - Murder in a Scottish Garden #2 Paislee Shaw, Nairn, Scotland
• Hayes, Terry - The Year of the Locust
• Hilton, Matt - Blood Kin #8 Grey and Villere, Louisiana
• Hollingdrake, Malcolm - Syn #2 Merseyside Crime Series
• Hughes, Egan - Leave the Lights On
• Hunter, Alice - The Serial Killer's Wife
• Hunter, M A - Discarded #4 The Missing Children Case Files
• Hurley, Graham - Intermission #5 Enora Andresson
• James, Peter - Left You Dead #17 Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, Brighton
• James, Peter - Wish You Were Dead (Quick Reads Novella)
• Kent, Christobel - The Widower
• Knight, Alanna - Murder at the World's Edge #4 Tam Eildor
• Kyazze, A B - Into the Mouth of the Lion
• Linskey, Howard - Don't Let Him In
• Mackay, Niki - Loaded
• Manning, Nina - The Bridesmaid
• Mariani, Scott - The Pandemic Plot #23 Ben Hope, Ex-SAS
• Marshall, D L - Anthrax Island #1 John Tyler
• Masters, Priscilla - The Subsequent Wife
• McDermid, Val - Resistance (Graphic Novel)
• Middleton, Lia - When They Find Her
• Mohamed, Nadifa - The Fortune Men
• Nadel, Barbara - Forfeit #23 Cetin Ikmen, Policeman, Istanbul
• Naspini, Sacha - Oxygen
• Northedge, Charlotte - The House Guest
• O'Keeffe, Bernard - The Final Round #1 DI Garibaldi, Barnes, London
• Oldham, Nick - Scarred #26 DCI Christie
• O'Sullivan, Darren - The Players
• Pálsdóttir, Sólveig - Silenced
• Parks, Adele - Both of You
• Pattison, C L - The Guest Book
• Russell, S L - The Thorn of Truth
• Ryan, Chris - Manhunter #1 Joe Bowman
• Scarr, Louisa - Last Place You Look #1 DS Butler & DC West
• Shaw, William - The Trawlerman #4 DS Alexandra Cupidi
• Sinclair, Rob - The Bonds of Blood #5 DI Dani Stephens
• Smith, Alexander McCall - The Man with the Silver Saab #3 Detective Varg, Malmo
• Southward, Adam - The Stranger Next Door
• Spain, Jo - The Perfect Lie
• Speechley, Ruby - A Mother Like You
• Stirling, Joss - Grey Stones #4 Jess Bridges
• Thomson, Lesley - The Distant Dead #8 Stella Darnell
• Trow, M J - The Knight's Tale #1 Geoffrey Chaucer
• Truhen, Aidan - Seven Demons
• Wagner, David P - To Die in Tuscany #7 Rick Montoya Italian Mysteries
• Walker, Martin - The Coldest Case #14 Bruno, Chief of Police, France
• Weaver, Ashley - A Peculiar Combination #1 Electra McDonnell
• Wood, Michael - Time Is Running Out #7 DCI Matilda Darke
• Wood, Tom A Quiet Man #9 Victor, Assassin

Thursday, April 29, 2021

US Cozy Review: Two from Amanda Flower

Welcome to another entry in my irregular feature: US cozy review.

Here are my reviews of Assaulted Caramel and Lethal Licorice the first two in the Amish Candy Shop Mystery series by Amanda Flower.
 
I have to say I enjoyed these two so much, not only have I bought the rest of the series, but also the first book in the spin-off series, the Amish Matchmaker Mysteries, and the first book in the author's new series, published by Hallmark, Dead-End Detective

If you are in the UK you might find Lethal Licorice is available via your library's ebook service, Libby. It certainly is, in Birmingham Libraries.

ASSAULTED CARAMEL by Amanda Flower is the first book in the Amish Candy Shop series which features Bailey King, a New York-based chocolatier to the stars. 

On the eve of an important job announcement which may affect Bailey’s future, she is summoned to her grandparents’ home in the Amish village of Harvest, Ohio as her grandfather is very ill. When she arrives, she finds her grandfather arguing with a property developer who is snapping up all the Amish shops on the main street. Her grandfather will not sell his candy shop and collapses as a result of the argument, combined with his severe heart disease.

Bailey’s first night back in Harvest does not end well. Retrieving her mobile phone from the kitchen -the only place there is electric - she stumbles over the body of the loathsome property developer, killed with her grandfather’s favourite chocolate-slicing knife. A knife she had used the previous day.

Her grandfather and then herself soon become the prime suspects and she is even suspected (though not really) by the dishy Deputy Aiden.

Bailey has to clear her name but more importantly her ill grandfather’s name and soon so she can return to New York for the job announcement due a couple of days later.

I really enjoyed ASSAULTED CARAMEL. I liked the setting, meeting various quirky residents – including Aiden’s mother Juliet who has a small pet pig, as well as learning about the Amish culture and customs. Bailey is a likeable and funny character and I loved when her city-girl best friend Cass came to visit. I didn’t guess whodunnit and I was pleased that Bailey, with help from her new and clever ginger cat, saved herself from the killer. Indeed, I enjoyed this book so much I went straight onto book two, LETHAL LICORICE.


LETHAL LICORICE is the second book in the Amish Candy Shop series by Amanda Flower. After the events in the series debut, ASSAULTED CARAMEL, Bailey King has now left her New York job and friends to help run her grandparents’ Amish candy shop in Harvest, Ohio.

Not being Amish herself, Bailey is struggling slightly to fit in. Various people think she and the Sheriff’s Deputy Aiden belong together, but Bailey’s heart is still sore from her last relationship. In the meantime, she is entering the Amish Confectionery Competition (ACC) on behalf of her grandparents’ shop. The ACC is a huge deal for whoever wins, bringing tourism and income to both the shop and the town it resides in. One of the competitors, Josephine Weaver, is not happy with Bailey entering as she is not Amish, however she is using Amish methodology and has a special dispensation from the organisers.

As well as being shouted at by Josephine, Bailey’s friend Juliet, mother of Aiden, has lost her pet pig and is in a bad way. Bailey and Juliet look around the nearby church and discover a young Amish woman, Charlotte, playing the organ. The organ sounds out of tune and when Charlotte looks inside, she finds the body of Josephine.

Bailey is again a possible murder suspect, this time in the death of Josephine, especially when the cause of death is an allergy to liquorice – which was the very first sweet to be made in the competition. More of a suspect though is Charlotte as she is at odds with her family and district over her wanting to play the organ and them wanting to ban her.

Again Bailey feels she had to clear her own name and also Charlotte’s.

This second book in the series starts almost where most first books in series do - with the protagonist moving somewhere new or back home to start over. So new readers could easily jump in with book two. I have been deliberately quite vague about the events of book one so as to avoid spoilers.

As with book one, ASSAULTED CARAMEL, I enjoyed this very much. It’s a light read with most chapters ending on a cliff-hanger so you want to read just one more. New characters are introduced and the Amish universe is expanded to include neighbouring districts with differing rules. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

In fact, these books, much like sweets, are hard to resist.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

CWA Dagger Awards 2021 - Longlists

The Longlists for the CWA Dagger Awards 2021 have been announced and are listed at the bottom of the press release. I have highlighted the comments on the 'In Translation' Dagger (formerly known as the International Dagger) and the timescales.

 

CWA Dagger Awards Longlists Announced

The 2021 longlists for the prestigious CWA Dagger awards, which honour the very best in the crime writing genre, have been announced.

The world-famous Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Daggers are the oldest awards in the genre, and have been synonymous with quality crime writing for over half a century.

Past winners of the prestigious Gold Dagger, which is awarded for the crime novel of the year, include Ian Rankin, John le Carré, Reginald Hill and Ruth Rendell. This year sees 2019’s winner of the Gold Dagger, M W Craven, return with The Curator. The former probation officer credited the CWA Debut Dagger competition in 2013 for opening the door to his career as an author.

Amer Anwar, who won the Debut Dagger competition in 2008, makes the list with Stone Cold Trouble. Anwar is up against the mighty JK Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith, alongside multi-award-winning authors including Nicci French, Elly Griffiths and Antonia Hodgson.

The Ian Fleming Steel Dagger is famed for showcasing blockbuster thrillers – past winners include Gillian Flynn and Robert Harris. Robert Galbraith is once more in the running, along with Ian Rankin, Stuart Turton, Catherine Ryan Howard, Ruth Ware and Michael Robotham, last year’s Gold winner.

Holly Watt, who won the Fleming Dagger in 2019, also returns to the longlist with The Dead Line.  Another to watch on the Fleming longlist is Chris Whitaker; his book Tall Oaks won the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger in 2017. Whitaker is long-listed for his latest novel We Begin At The End, which was a Waterstones Thriller of the Month and has sold in 17 territories, with screen rights snapped up by Disney.

Linda Stratmann, Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association, said: “The CWA Dagger awards are unparalleled for their reputation and longevity. The longlists showcase authors – established and new – at the top of their game. It’s not surprising that sales of crime fiction have been so strong during Covid-19. Both fiction and non-fiction have proven to be a great escape for many as we have been stuck at home. As our longlists show, these stories and insights take readers all over the world and through time, from Bombay of the 1950s to ancient Athens to modern-day California and many points between. 

“Crime books can be thrilling mysteries, but they can also provide social commentary, insights into true crime, or explore big questions in life. The vast and diverse talent in these longlists show why it’s the UK’s most popular and enduring genre. We are proud to provide a platform for debut, emerging and established authors, and to honour the very best in crime writing.”

The much-anticipated John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger highlights the best debut novels. Among the rising stars of 2021 is Susan Allot with her Australian-set debut, The Silence, praised by the Wall Street Journal as ‘emotionally wrenching’.

New writing duo Chris Rickaby and Barney Thompson, writing under the pseudonym Ben Creed, also feature with their debut, City of Ghosts, a tense historical novel set in 1951 Russia. The global theme continues with Stephanie Scott’s accomplished debut, What’s Left of Me Is Yours, set in modern day Japan, exploring romantic and familial love, duty and murder.

Booker prize winner John Banville is a heavyweight contender on the Sapere Books Historical Dagger longlist. The prizewinning novelist and literary polymath, considered Ireland’s greatest living novelist, is in the running for Snow, his first murder mystery published under his real name rather than his nom de plume, Benjamin Black.

This Sapere Books Historical Dagger longlist also includes Nicola Upson, who was shortlisted for the award in 2018, and S J Parris, whose Giordano Bruno books, Heresy, Sacrilege and Treachery have all been previously shortlisted. Vaseem Khan also features on the list as he swaps his contemporary light-hearted Baby Ganesh Agency series with his historical crime novel Midnight at Malabar House, set in 1950s Bombay.

The Crime Fiction in Translation Dagger sees the bestselling Jo Nesbo on the list with his stand-alone thriller, The Kingdom, translated by Robert Ferguson. Joining the Norwegian is Swedish writer Mikael Niemi with his sumptuous blend of historical fact with fictional intrigue, To Cook a Bear, centred around the Laestadian revivalist movement of the 1850s, translated by Sarah Death.

From one of Israel’s most beloved writers is Three by D A Mishani, translated by Jessica Cohen, and from South Korea, Yun Ko-eun’s original and inventive thriller The Disaster Tourist makes the longlist, with translator Lizzie Buehler.

The CWA Daggers are one of the few high-profile awards that honour the short story. Christopher Fowler, the award-winning author of the Bryant & May mystery novels, has written over 50 novels and short story collections. Fowler, who won the CWA Dagger in the Library in 2015, is longlisted for his short story, Head Count. The list also features acclaimed authors Clare Mackintosh and Stuart Turton. Founding member of the North East Noir crime writers’ group, Robert Scragg, also dominates the category as an editor and writer of short stories.

The ALCS Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction features the 2020 CWA Diamond Dagger winner, Martin Edwards, with Howdunit. A renowned editor, prolific novelist, and leading authority on crime fiction, Howdunit offers a masterclass in crime writing by leading exponents of the genre.

Dan Smith also features with The Peer and the Gangster which tells the incredible story of one of the largest-scale political cover-ups in British history – the 1964 scandal of an alleged homosexual affair between Lord Boothby, a well-known member of the House of Lords, and London’s most notorious mobster Ronnie Kray.

The Dagger in the Library is voted on exclusively by librarians, chosen for the author’s body of work and support of libraries. This year sees firm favourites from the genre including Nicci French, Lisa Jewell, Margaret Murphy, Erin Kelly, Peter May and Denise Mina on the longlist.

The Best Crime and Mystery Publisher of the Year Dagger, which celebrates publishers and imprints demonstrating excellence and diversity in crime writing, pits big publishing houses Harper Fiction and Faber & Faber against independent publishers such as No Exit Press. 

The CWA Dagger shortlist will be announced in May with the awards ceremony taking place at the start of July. The 2021 Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement, the highest honour in British crime writing, has already been announced, awarded to Martina Cole.

The Longlists in Full:

GOLD DAGGER

Amer Anwar: Stone Cold Trouble (Dialogue Books, Little, Brown Book Group)

S A Cosby: Blacktop Wasteland (Headline, Headline Publishing Group)

M W Craven: The Curator (Constable, Little, Brown Book Group)

Ben Creed: City of Ghosts (Welbeck Fiction, Welbeck Publishing Group)

Garry Disher: Peace (Viper, Profile Books)

Mick Finlay: Arrowood and the Thames Corpses (HQ, HarperCollins)

Nicci French: House of Correction (Simon & Schuster)

Robert Galbraith: Troubled Blood (Sphere, Little, Brown Book Group)

Elly Griffiths: The Postscript Murders (Quercus)

Antonia Hodgson: The Silver Collar (Hodder & Stoughton)

S G Maclean: The House of Lamentations (Quercus Fiction, Quercus)

C D Major: The Other Girl (Thomas & Mercer)

Thomas Mullen: Midnight Atlanta (Little, Brown, Little, Brown Book Group)

S J Parris: Execution (Harper Fiction, HarperCollins)

Tade Thompson: Making Wolf (Constable, Little, Brown Book Group)

Nicola Upson: The Dead of Winter (Faber)

Chris Whitaker: We Begin at the End (Zaffre, Bonnier)

Rebecca Whitney: The Hidden Girls (Mantle, Pan Macmillan)

 

IAN FLEMING STEEL DAGGER

Charles Cumming: Box 88 (HarperFiction, HarperCollins)

Robert Galbraith: Troubled Blood (Sphere, Little, Brown Book Group)

Ryan Gattis: The System (Picador, Pan Macmillan)

Ian Rankin: Song for the Dark Times (Orion Fiction, The Orion Publishing Group)

Rod Reynolds: Blood Red City (Orenda Books)

Craig Robertson: Watch Him Die (Simon & Schuster)

Michael Robotham: When She Was Good (Sphere, Little, Brown Book Group)

Catherine Ryan Howard: The Nothing Man (Atlantic Books)

Stuart Turton: The Devil and the Dark Water (Raven Books, Bloomsbury Publishing)

Ruth Ware: One by One (Harvill Secker, Vintage)

Holly Watt: The Dead Line (Raven Books, Bloomsbury Publishing)

Chris Whitaker: We Begin at the End (Zaffre, Bonnier Books UK)

 

JOHN CREASEY (NEW BLOOD) DAGGER

Eva Björg Ægisdóttir: The Creak on the Stairs (tr. Victoria Cribb) (Orenda) 

Susan Allott: The Silence (Borough, HarperCollins)

Emma Christie: The Silent Daughter (Welbeck Publishing)

Catherine Cooper: The Chalet (Harper Fiction, HarperCollins)

Ben Creed: City of Ghosts (Welbeck Publishing) 

Judi Daykin: Under Violent Skies (Joffe Books)    

Egan Hughes: The One That Got Away (Little Brown, Sphere)

S W Kane: The Bone Jar (Thomas & Mercer)        

Rob McInroy: Cuddies Strip (Ringwood Press)    

Stephanie Scott: What's Left of Me Is Yours (Orion, Weidenfeld)

Stephen Spotswood: Fortune Favours the Dead (Headline, Wildfire)

John Vercher: Three Fifths (Pushkin Press)           

S R White: Hermit (Headline)

 

SAPERE BOOKS HISTORICAL DAGGER

J M Alvey: Justice for Athena (Canelo Digital Publishing Limited)

John Banville: Snow (Faber)

Vaseem Khan: Midnight at Malabar House (Hodder & Stoughton)

Laurie King: Riviera Gold (Allison & Busby)

Chris Lloyd: The Unwanted Dead (Orion Fiction, The Orion Publishing Group)

S J Parris: Execution (HarperFiction, HarperCollins)

Ben Pastor: The Night of Shooting Stars (Bitter Lemon Press)

Michael Russell: The City Under Siege (Constable, Little, Brown Book Group)

David S. Stafford: Skelton’s Guide to Domestic Poisons (Allison & Busby)

A D Swanston: Chaos (Bantam Press, Transworld)

Nicola Upson: The Dead of Winter (Faber)

Ovidia Yu: The Mimosa Tree Mystery (Constable, Little, Brown Book Group)

 

CRIME FICTION IN TRANSLATION DAGGER

Fredrik Backman: Anxious People, translated by Neil Smith (Michael Joseph, Penguin)

Roxanne Bouchard: The Coral Bride, translated by David Warriner (Orenda Books)

Marc Elsberg: Greed, translated by Simon Pare (Black Swan, Penguin)

Yun Ko-eun: The Disaster Tourist, translated by Lizzie Buehler (Serpent's Tail)

Volker Kutscher: The March Fallen, translated by Niall Sellar (Sandstone Press)

D A Mishani: Three, translated by Jessica Cohen (Riverrun, Hachette Book Group)

Jo Nesbo: The Kingdom, translated by Robert Ferguson (Harvill Secker, Penguin)

Håkan Nesser: The Secret Life of Mr Roos, translated by Sarah Death (Mantle, Pan Macmillan)

Mikael Niemi: To Cook a Bear, translated by Deborah Bragan-Turner (Maclehose Press, Quercus)

Agnes Ravatn:  The Seven Doors, translated by Rosie Hedger (Orenda Books)

Maike Wetzel: Elly, translated by Lyn Marven (Scribe UK)

 

SHORT STORY DAGGER

Robert Scragg: ‘A Dog is for Life, Not Just for Christmas’ in Afraid of the Christmas Lights, edited by Robert Scragg (Robert Scragg)

Elle Croft: ‘Deathbed’ in Afraid of the Light, edited by Robert Scragg (Robert Scragg)

Dominic Nolan: ‘Daddy Dearest’ in Afraid of the Light, edited by Robert Scragg (Robert Scragg)

Adam Southward: ‘Especially at Christmas’ in Afraid of the Christmas Lights, edited by Robert Scragg (Robert Scragg)

Christopher Fowler: ‘Head Count’ in First Edition: Celebrating 21 Years of Goldsboro Books (The Dome Press)

Victoria Selman: ‘Hunted’ in Afraid of the Christmas Lights, edited by Robert Scragg (Robert Scragg)

Clare Mackintosh: ‘Monsters’ in First Edition: Celebrating 21 Years of Goldsboro Books (The Dome Press)

Stuart Turton: ‘Murder Most Vial’ in First Edition: Celebrating 21 Years of Goldsboro Books (The Dome Press)

Livia Llewelyn: ‘One of These Nights’ in Cutting Edge: Noir Stories by Women, edited by Joyce Carol Oates (Pushkin Press, Pushkin Vertigo)

James Delargy: ‘Planting Nan in Afraid of the Light, edited by Robert Scragg (Robert Scragg)

Simpson Grears: ‘The Foot of the Walk Murders’ in The Foot of the Walk Murders, edited by Simpson Grears (Rymour Books)

 

ALCS GOLD DAGGER FOR NON-FICTION

Sue Black: Written in Bone (Doubleday, Penguin)

Amanda Brown: The Prison Doctor; Women Inside (HQ, HarperCollins)

Becky Cooper: We Keep the Dead Close (William Heinemann, Penguin)

Martin Edwards: Howdunit (Collins Crime Club, HarperCollins)

Andrew Harding: These Are Not Gentle People (MacLehose, Quercus)

Debora Harding: Dancing with the Octopus (Profile Books Limited)

Nick Hayes: The Book of Trespass (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury Publishing)

Ben MacIntyre: Agent Sonya (Viking, Penguin)

Jax Miller: Hell in the Heartland (HarperCollins)

Daniel Smith: The Peer and the Gangster (The History Press)

Ravi Somaiya: Operation Morthor (Viking, Penguin)

Kate Summerscale: The Haunting of Alma Fielding (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury Publishing)

Mark Townsend: No Return (Guardian, Faber & Faber)

 

DAGGER IN THE LIBRARY

Lin Anderson

Nicci French

Lisa Jewell

Erin Kelly

Peter May

Denise Mina

Margaret Murphy

James Oswald

L J Ross

C L Taylor

               

PUBLISHERS’ DAGGER

Bitter Lemon Press

Faber & Faber

Harper Fiction

Head of Zeus

Michael Joseph

No Exit Press

Orenda Books

Pushkin Vertigo

Raven

Sphere

Viper

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Blog Tour: Extract from Silenced by Solveig Pálsdóttir tr. Quentin Bates

Welcome to the second stop on the blog tour for Silenced by Solveig Pálsdóttir translated by Quentin Bates. The first stop was at the Nordic Lighthouse

I am very pleased to be able to share an extract from Silenced, the second in this Icelandic 'Ice and Crime' series which began with The Fox.

Silenced will be available to buy from 15 April.

As a police team is called in to investigate a woman’s suicide at the Hólmsheiði prison outside Reykjavík, to detective Guðgeir Fransson it looks like a tragic but straightforward case.

It’s only afterwards that the pieces begin to fall into place and he takes a deeper interest in Kristín Kjarr’s troubled background, and why she had found herself in prison.

His search leads him to a series of brutal crimes committed twenty years before and the unexplained disappearance of the prime suspect, whose wealthy family closed ranks as every effort was made to keep skeletons securely hidden in closets – while the Reykjavík police struggle to deal with a spate of fresh attacks that bear all the hallmarks of a copycat.


And here's the teaser extract:

Guðgeir had seen more than a few cells during his career. They were all much the same, with a bed, table and chair, as well as an overpowering sense of claustrophobia. But this one with its lively pictures on the walls was an exception, presenting a stark contrast to the lifeless woman on the bed. Leifur looked her over for a moment before he put his bag on the floor, pulled on a pair of gloves and set about gathering evidence.

‘Are these her pictures?’ Guðgeir asked.

‘Yes, she’s an artist,’ Svala replied in a low voice from by the door. ‘Was, I mean,’ she corrected herself. ‘Kristín had recently begun painting again after a long break. She was incredibly talented, fantastic stuff.’

Svala bit her lip and fell silent.

‘There’s something odd about all this,’ she said, hesitating, shaking her head slowly. ‘These last few weeks she had been working flat-out, as if she had been preparing for a big exhibition. She hardly even stopped for meals.’

‘Did she have much else to do with her time?’ Guðgeir asked, looking down at the woman on the bed. Her brown hair was cropped short and her face was made up of fine lines. Her ears were pierced, with a delicate silver ring in each one. Her arms were at her sides, hands closed. His eye was caught by the ring finger of her right hand, and a heavy silver ring with a striking emblem. He took a picture of it with his phone.

‘No, not exactly,’ Svala said. ‘There isn’t much to do, but all the same…’ she was about to place a hand on the body.

‘Don’t,’ Leifur said quickly. He looked up from what he was doing and glared at Svala. ‘Don’t touch anything.’

‘Of course, sorry,’ she muttered, withdrawing her hand.

Leifur gave her a smile, as if to soften his harsh words, and paused to inspect the pictures on the walls.

‘They’re beautifully done,’ he admitted.

‘That’s right. Kristín was artistic and a sensitive soul. I can’t understand why she did this. I just don’t get it at all,’ she sighed, a look of despair in her eyes. ‘She lived a life that was so much richer than most people you meet in here do. Spiritually, I mean.’

‘Creative people frequently tend to be vulnerable,’ Leifur said, sounding philosophical. ‘She wanted to leave something behind.’

‘Kjarr. Kristín Kjarr,’ Guðgeir said, as if to himself. ‘Did she have any children?’ he asked.

Svala shook her head. ‘I don’t think so, no.’

‘No suicide note to be seen here,’ Leifur announced.

‘Are any of the other prisoners aware of this yet?’ Guðgeir asked, stepping cautiously past a large plastic cup that lay on the floor.

‘No, none of them,’ Svala said, running hands through her reddish hair, pushing it back behind her ears, which gave her the look of a young girl. ‘But I’m sure some of them noticed that Kristín didn’t show up this morning.’

‘Could you let the priest know that he can go and see the family?’ Guðgeir said. ‘We’ll come down to the office when we’re finished, and it would be useful to have a chat with you then, Svala. You seem to have known Kristín well.’

She nodded, anxious to be helpful, but also relieved to be released from the discomfort of being present. Guðgeir waited for her footsteps in the corridor to fade away before he turned to Leifur.

‘Don’t you think this is all weird?’ he asked, rubbing his chin, the dark bristles rough against his hand.

***

Don't forget to follow the tour!