Murder Under the Midnight Sun by Stella Blómkvist

Translated by Quentin Bates

It’s my turn on the blogtour for the second Blómkvist novel to be translated by Quentin Bates for Corylus Books, who continue their quest to bring us translated crime fiction with a sense of social justice. Murder Under the Midnight Sun was published in 2010, and the series has a huge following in Iceland, where the identity of the author has remained a mystery since 1997! This novel can happily be read as a standalone from the previous one Murder at the Residence; what little back story is needed is filtered in as needed.

This novel also follows the same format as the previous one. Stella Blómkvist, singular woman and fearless investigating lawyer takes on two cases which will prove to be testing to the limits. Firstly, she is approached by gentleman from Glasgow with a deathbed request to trace a young British woman who went missing some years ago. The police had no luck and wrote her disappearance off, but the girl’s mother is keen for one more try before she dies. Secondly, the husband of her friend Rannveig is accused of the murder of his father-in-law and her best friend at a conference. But there’s a third element in the mix too. Stella had been making a documentary with Rannveig which involved them going out onto the slopes of one of Iceland’s many volcanoes on skidoos and getting a shot of Stella coming out of the fog sent her down through a crevice into a cave – where amazingly she wasn’t badly hurt, but finds herself keeping company with a frozen human arm with a distinctive ring on one finger! Fourthly, a journalist friend of hers has been writing a book based on information from secret sources about murky goings on in Icelandic sub-politics during the Cod Wars, and is being threatened with lawsuits. Finally, a man who is a candidate for being the father of her four-year-old daughter Soley, is pressurising for a paternity test!

Talk about being busy! You can rely on Stella to dig deeper, to go where the police wouldn’t consider, to ask all the awkward questions. Turns out Iceland is like a big village, and there are links between the murders and the arm. And in digging into Julia’s disappearance, as Stella gets closer, personal danger gets nearer and nearer.

This was so enjoyable, even better than the one before and I particularly loved the way all the cases intertwined. I also love the way that she ends every chapter with an aphorism like, ‘Never swerve when the road ahead is straight, as Mother said.’ She also uses particular expression of annoyance which you don’t hear much these days – ‘sheesh’, which was probably a British corruption of ‘Jeez’ back in the day. (although I understand that Tik Tok is using in the opposite sense, cf ‘sick’ etc). It led me to wondering how Bates came up with that rather endearing non-expletive – Stella doesn’t swear.

We do learn a little about Stella’s past, but Stella now is a lusty sort, preferring women, and she’s not afraid to be forward to get a hook-up in her actions or the way she dresses. This is one aspect of her that makes me think that the author may be male. Another is the way she refers to her car as the ‘silver steed’. I’ll leave those hanging, and look forward with great anticipation to the next!

Source: Review copy – thank you! Corylus paperback, 214 pages.

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5 thoughts on “Murder Under the Midnight Sun by Stella Blómkvist

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      ‘Sheesh’ took me back to the 70s as an innocent exclamation that preceded when we started saying ‘sugar’ and ‘fish fingers’ in lieu of swearing! Rather endearing.

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