Frozen Assets: An Officer Gunnhildur Mystery by Quentin BatesFrozen Assets: An Officer Gunnhildur Mystery by Quentin Bates

Frozen Assets: An Officer Gunnhildur Mystery

byQuentin Bates

Paperback | January 10, 2012

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THE FIRST INSTALLMENT OF THE OFFICER GUNNHILDUR MYSTERIES SET IN ICELAND

An unidentified body is found floating in the harbor of a rural Icelandic fishing village. Was the stranger’s death an accident or something more sinister? It’s up to Officer Gunnhildur, a sardonic female cop, to find out. Her investigation uncovers a web of corruption connected to Iceland’s business and banking communities. Meanwhile, a rookie crime journalist latches on to her, looking for a scoop, and an anonymous blogger is stirring up trouble. The complications increase, as do the stakes, when a second murder is committed.
Quentin Bates lived in Iceland for ten years, during which time he got married, produced a family, and generally went native. He moved back to the UK with his family in 1990 and became a full-time journalist at a commercial fishing magazine. He and his wife frequently return to Iceland, where they have many friends, including several i...
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Title:Frozen Assets: An Officer Gunnhildur MysteryFormat:PaperbackProduct dimensions:288 pages, 7.5 × 5.02 × 0.94 inShipping dimensions:7.5 × 5.02 × 0.94 inPublished:January 10, 2012Language:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1616950560

ISBN - 13:9781616950569

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1Tuesday, 26 AugustWater gurgled between the piles of the dock and the car’s tyresjuddered over the heavy timbers. Somewhere a generator puttered onboard one of the longliners tied up at the quay.The driver turned off the engine and killed the lights beforestepping out of the car and taking a deep breath of fragrant summerair, still and laden with the tang of seaweed. He looked about himcarefully and walked along the quay, watching the boats for any signof activity.Satisfied, he opened the passenger door. He lifted the passenger’slegs out and then stooped to drape an arm over his shoulders.Grunting with exertion, he hauled the passenger to his feet.‘Waas goin’ on?’ the passenger slurred as the driver steadied himself,planting his feet wide. He half supported, half dragged the passengerthe few metres towards the gangplank of the nearest boat.‘Come on. Almost there.’The passenger staggered against the driver. ‘W-w-where’s this?’‘Nearly there,’ the driver muttered to himself as much as to hispassenger.He braced one booted foot on the heavy timber parapet runningthe length of the quay, and quickly straightened his back as hetipped the passenger headlong into the blackness below. The splashcompeted for a second with the muttering generator on board anearby boat and the driver stood still, listening intently. Hearingnothing from below, he nodded to himself and padded back to thecar.A moment later the engine whispered into life and the car vanishedinto the night.The phone buzzed angrily. Gunna fumbled for the handset in the darkand barked into it.‘Gunnhildur.’‘Good morning. Sorry to wake you up. I did wake you up, didn’tI?’ asked a familiar voice as she cast about for the face that went with it.‘You did,’ she yawned. ‘Who is this?’‘Albert Jónasson.’Gunna stretched a hand to the curtain and twitched it aside to letin a glare of early morning sunlight.‘And what can I do for you at this ungodly hour?’ she asked,knowing that Albert Jónasson was not a man to trouble a police officerwithout good reason, especially one who had arrested him only a fewweeks before.‘Thought you’d be the best person to talk to. There’s a bloke downby the quay.’‘You woke me up to tell me there’s a stranger by the dock?’ Gunnagrowled.‘Yeah. A stranger who’s dead.’She snapped awake and swung her feet on to the cold floor.‘Where?’‘On the beach by the pontoons. Saw something in the waves andwent to have a look.’‘Right. Stay where you are. I’ll be right there.’Gunna drove past the half-dozen longline boats tied up at the quayand slowed down as the car rumbled on to the black gravel that madeup the track leading to the small boat dock. She could make out asolitary figure standing next to the only boat there, a bearded bear ofa man in orange oilskin trousers pacing the pontoon dock next to aspotless fishing boat that puttered with its engine idling.She parked at the top of the dock among the fishermen’s pickuptrucks and Albert Jónasson strode to meet her, pointing at a bundlelying among the waves lapping on the black sand of the beach a fewmetres away.‘Down there,’ he said grimly, following behind as Gunna trodgingerly, wary of disturbing anything.‘Have you been down here, Albert?’ she called over her shoulder.‘No fear. Leave well alone, I thought.’‘You haven’t had a look? How did you know it was a body?’‘I got here a bit late. All the others were away before daybreak. I wasjust starting up and saw something floating, so I had a look with thebinoculars and saw what it was. So I thought I’d better give you a call.’Gunna ripped a pair of surgical gloves from the pouch on her toolbelt and snapped them on before she squatted by the bundle andgently smoothed matted red hair back from a face that looked peacefulbut lost. She pressed the button on her Tetra communicator and spokeinto the tiny microphone on her collar.‘Nine eight four one, nine five five zero. Are you there, Haddi?’She retreated and pulled her phone from her pocket.‘Albert, are you going to sea today?’ she asked as the dialling tonebuzzed.‘I was going to.’‘All right. Ah, Haddi, that took a while,’ she said, switching herattention to the phone. ‘Look, shelve everything, we have anunidentified body floating in the small boat dock. You’d better get thecavalry out.’Albert watched Gunna nodding as she paced back and forth,admiring her solid frame inside the uniform that didn’t do it justice.‘No,’ she continued. ‘Ambulance and the technical division,discreetly if that’s at all possible. Get Bjössi over from CID in Keflavíkif he’s not too busy with the Baltic mafia. OK?’She ended the call and looked over to where Albert was waitingpatiently for her.‘Am I all right to go to sea today, then?’‘When will you be back?’‘Three. Four, maybe.’‘Go on then. But I’ll need you to make a statement when you’vefinished landing your fish.’‘No problem,’ Albert said gratefully, already making his way alongthe pontoon and throwing off the boat’s mooring ropes in the process.‘See you later, Gunna,’ he called out as the boat surged from the quay.And I’ll stay here and wait for the professionals to turn up, Gunnathought, opening the squad car’s boot to get out a roll of tape tocordon off the area. She wondered if the tape had ever been usedbefore in Hvalvík, a village where a speeding ticket or an uncooperativedrunk were the most serious crimes she or Haddi normallyhad to deal with.26-08-2008, 0944Skandalblogger writes:You can’t keep a good blog down!So, we’re back and once again the Icelandic scandal blog has abrand-new home! We’ve been tarred and feathered and run out oftown on a rail one more time, so this time we’re back stronger thanever in a delightful part of the world where they respect the power ofMr Visa to overrule the pathetic attempts of those-who-run-things tosilence free speech. Hurrah for the Tiger economies! Free speech isthere for those willing to pay for it!Making friends and influencing people!But anyway, folks, and we mean that most sincerely, our favouritesare still up to their old tricks. Gunni Benedikts at the trade ministry, nodoubt after a looong lunch with his old chum Óli at agriculture, has justdecided to block imports of New Zealand lamb to our fair country.Now, some of you may find this a bit hard to stomach, what with all theclaptrap these guys have been spouting over the years about freemarket economics, going for the most competitive bid, and all thatshit. But let’s remember which party holds trade? And agriculture? Ofcourse, it’s our old friends the Progressives, and we can’t go upsettingthe farmers, or at least the half-dozen who are still in business andwho vote for them, just by letting them be undercut by cheap foreignimports. That wouldn’t be fair, would it?(Private) Power to (a few of) the People!As for everyone’s favourite minister . . . ! Bjarni Jón, now just whoare your new friends? And we don’t mean the guys at InterAlu, it’stheir friends from further east we’re interested in this time. From whata little bird whispers in our ear, these are oil people. Energy people.Money people. Powerful people. Watch your back, BJB, and whenyou’ve shaken hands with them, you’d better count your fingers, justto make sure.We’ve heard the rumours circulating around environment and trade,and the PM’s office, and we’re not going to believe it, as we know whata great guy you really are. We’re absolutely certain that you’d neversideline the National Power Authority by inviting a foreign company tobuild and run a private power station to sell electricity to InterAlu. So,please, BJB, tell us it ain’t true?Watch this space, there’ll be more tomorrow!Bæjó!Haddi firmly believed that a whirlwind of unwarranted attention haddescended on Hvalvík and its tiny police station. By mid-morning thestation’s older, but junior, police officer would have preferred to bemaking his accustomed tour of the village in the station’s better Volvo,taking in coffee, gossip and a doughnut or three with the lads at thenet loft or maybe with one of his cousins in the saltfish plant’s canteen.Instead he found himself fending off a flood of questions through thephone and from the huddle of newspaper and television peopleoutside.Outside on the grass verge a serious young woman in a thick parkaover a smart city suit presented take after take with the little harbourand Hvalvík’s pastel-painted houses in the background, as if to makesure that Reykjavík viewers understood this was a report from outsidetheir city limits.Teams from Morgunbladid, DV, Fréttabladid, state TV and radio,Channel 2, Channel 3, and a few more that Haddi had never heard ofhad all demanded information, been told there was no statement yetand they’d just have to wait. Haddi was putting the phone down fromtelling the local paper the same thing when a young man with a mess ofgelled fair hair that appeared to defy both gravity and the breeze outsidepushed his way through the door into the station’s reception area.‘Yes?’ Haddi asked brusquely, arms folded on the counter.‘Er. Hi. I’m Skúli Snædal from Dagurinn.’Haddi rolled his eyes ceilingwards. ‘Look, son, I’ve told all of youthat there’ll be a statement this afternoon. Yes, we have found anunidentified person. No, I can’t tell you where. No, I can’t tell youany more than that.’‘But I’m—’‘Sorry. That’s all I can say right now.’‘But that’s not what I’m here for. I’ve come to see Gunnhildur. I’mshadowing her for a while. For Dagurinn,’ he added.Haddi took a deep breath ‘So you’re not here because of the body?’‘No. What body?’‘Never you mind. The chief’s not here right now, and I don’tsuppose she’ll be back for an hour or two.’‘Couldn’t you call her up? I’m expected.’Haddi pulled his glasses down from among his curls and peered overthem.‘If it was something important, then I could call her up,’ he agreed.‘But on a day like today, then it would have to be something morethan usually important.’Skúli tried again. ‘It’s all arranged. I can call the press representativeat police headquarters and confirm with them again.’‘Sorry. Not now. Look, we have a very serious incident to dealwith, so I’d appreciate it if you’d call Reykjavík and sort it out withthem. We’re a bit busy right now. Hm?’Haddi’s frown and raised eyebrows made it plain that this was nota matter for discussion and the young man appeared to concede defeat.‘All right then. But do you know when she’s going to be back?’‘Normally, about now. Today . . .’ Haddi shrugged his shoulders.The young man nodded glumly and made for the door. The lookof disappointment on his face aroused a sudden pang in Haddi’s heartand he called across as the young man had the door half open.‘Not from round here, are you?’‘No. Reykjavík.’‘D’you know Hafnarkaffi?’‘What’s that?’‘It’s the shop down by the dock. It’s getting on for lunchtime and oddsare that’swhere the chief’ll be. But you didn’t hear that fromme, all right?’The young man grinned in delight. ‘Thanks. That would be great.How do I recognize her?’‘Gunna? Can’t miss her. She’s a big fat lass with a face that frightensthe horses.’Hafnarkaffi stands between the fishmeal plant and Jói Ben’s engineeringshop. Originally a shed used for storing tarred longlines throughthe summer, Hafnarkaffi has grown gradually since it was turned intoa drive-in kiosk thirty years ago, then expanded into a shop and hadan extension built to add a small café for harbour workers andfishermen. The final addition was the petrol pumps outside, but bynow hardly anything of the original corrugated iron shed is to be seenand the place has become an enduring nightmare for council plannerswho have visions of it spreading across the road.Skúli looked through the steamed-up glass panels of the door andmade out figures sitting at tables. Pushing it open, he ventured in,thought for a moment and decided that he really was hungry anyway.At the end of the long counter he collected a tray and pushed it infront of him, picking up bottled water on the way and stopping beforethe row of steaming steel bins.‘Fish or meat?’ a grey-faced woman behind the counter asked.‘Er – what do you have?’‘Fish or meat.’‘What sort are they?’‘It’s Tuesday. Salted fish or salted meat.’Skúli’s heart sank and he began towish he hadn’t botheredwith a tray.‘Saltfish, please,’ he decided, knowing that he would regret it.The woman ladled fish and potatoes on to a plate. ‘Fat?’‘Sorry? What?’‘D’you want fat on it?’‘Oh, er, no. Thanks.’She dropped the spoon back into the dish of liquefied fat andpointed to a pot. ‘Soup?’‘Oh, no thanks.’‘It’s included.’‘No, thanks anyway.’‘Up to you. It’s there if you change your mind. Coffee’s includedas well. That’s eight hundred. Receipt?’Skúli handed over a note and received change and receipt. Hescanned the room and quickly located a bulky figure in uniform at thefar side, hunched over a table. At a distance it wasn’t easy to see if thefigure was man or a woman, but Skúli hoped he had found the rightperson. He edged between tables, forcing a row of blue-overalledworkmen to haul in their bellies and chairs for him to pass, beforeplanting his tray on the table.‘May I sit here?’The figure looked up and Skúli saw that, in spite of the broadshoulders, the solid woman with the short fair hair was not the bruiserHaddi had given him to expect. Although she would never be abeauty, she had an angular, handsome face that radiated authority. Hewondered briefly if this was natural, or the product of a police career.‘Help yourself,’ she said, between spoonfuls of colourless soup.‘You must be Gunnhildur?’She nodded, scraping the bottom of the soup plate. ‘Known toevery man and his dog as Gunna the Cop,’ she corrected. ‘And youmust be the lad from Dagurinn. I suppose Haddi told you I’d be here,did he?’Skúli picked at the saltfish on the plate in front of him. This kindof traditional food had never been on the menu at home and he wasn’tready for the overpowering salt flavour of the first forkful.‘So. Now that you’re here, what is it you’re after?’‘Nothing special, really. The idea is a series of feature articles in theSaturday magazine about the work of rural police. I’m not looking foranything out of the ordinary – just the opposite, actually.’‘Not because of what’s been going on this morning?’‘No . . .’ Skúli said slowly.‘So you don’t know,’ she said with slow satisfaction and a broadsmile that lit up her face. ‘Well, you must be the only reporter inIceland who hasn’t heard that an unidentified corpse was found justround the corner this morning. You must be the only one, becausepractically every other hack in the country has either turned up hereor else phoned the station to demand a statement. Poor old Haddi’sbeen going spare.’‘Oh. I see.’Skúli dropped his cutlery and dived into his coat pocket to bringout a mobile phone. He switched it on and within seconds it wasbuzzing angrily with a series of voice and text messages.‘Shit. I forgot to switch it on when I left this morning, and I didn’teven have the radio on in the car,’ he admitted. ‘Sorry, I didn’t knowanything.’‘Anyway, now that you’re here, I suppose you’d better have a storyto take back with you.’‘That would be . . . great.’‘You mean it would save your sorry arse from being fried?’‘Er, yes, probably.’‘There’ll be a statement this afternoon, so you can have it half anhour before it comes out officially. I don’t suppose that’ll do any harm.’‘Thank you. That’s brilliant.’‘Right. But you’ll owe me a favour there straight away. How oldare you?’‘Twenty-five.’‘What are you on this paper, then, a junior reporter, or what?’‘No. I’m the crime editor.’‘What? There’s a whopping story here and you didn’t even knowabout it, Mr Crime Editor?’ Gunna asked with a second sly smile.Skúli shuffled fish about on his plate. ‘Actually I’ve only been thecrime editor for a week. And that was because someone put theby-line as a joke on something I wrote about a woman who had beencaught shoplifting from the shopping centre at Kringlan. It stayed inby mistake, so I’m the new crime editor.’‘How long have you been working for Dagurinn?’Skúli was starting to resent Gunna’s quickfire questions, remindinghimself that he should be the one asking. ‘A couple of months.Dagurinn only started up in January.’‘What were you doing before that?’‘I finished my master’s last year and then I was at Jyllands Posten asan intern for a few months until I came home.’‘Denmark. Where?’‘In Århus. How long have you been in the police?’ he asked, tryingto wrench the conversation around so that he could ask the questions.‘Far too long. And who are your people?’‘The Snædal family.’‘Oh. Top people, I see.’‘My uncle was in the government years ago.’‘I know. I might even have voted for him.’‘That’s nice to know. I’ll tell him.’‘I’m not quite that old,’ Gunna replied coldly. ‘Now, get that downyou and we’ll make a start. I have masses of things to do and if you’regoing to tag along you’ll have to keep up and preferably keep quiet.All right?’‘That’s fine,’ Skúli replied, laying down his knife and fork with apremonition of failure. He realized that, for a reporter, he had askedno questions and found out almost nothing about the person he wassupposed to be profiling, while she had found out practicallyeverything about him. ‘We can go, if you want. I don’t really likesaltfish,’ he admitted.‘Then you won’t grow up to have curly hair. Come on then,’ shesaid with a grin, rising to her feet and pulling a phone from her jacketpocket as it began to chirrup.‘Hi, sweetheart, just a moment,’ she answered it in a gentle tone.‘You’d better take your tray back to the counter, and you can takemine while you’re at it. I’ll see you outside in a minute,’ she instructedSkúli, marching towards the door with the phone at her ear. Skúliwondered who she could be addressing as sweetheart.

Editorial Reviews

“Excellent debut ... Bates does a fine job with both Gunna and her town, her acerbic boss and an online blogger who keeps us abreast of events in Icelandic media and politics.”—Toronto Globe and Mail“British author and sometime Icelandic resident Bates embeds his well-paced mystery in this strange time, making (some) sense of it for American readers while introducing us to a heroine we could enjoy for the long haul. He doesn't skimp on the plot either, intertwining Gunna's investigation with the killer's movements and ratcheting up suspense as he brings it all together in a  rousing finale.”—Portsmouth Herald