The Girl Without Skin (Greenland #1), Mads Peder Nordbo

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Mads Peder Nordbo , and Text Publishing Company for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

While I quite enjoy Scandinavian murder mysteries, there are certainly degrees of quality, as with any genre. I stumbled upon this piece by Mads Peder Nordbo and liked the dust jacket blurb, hoping it would live up to the synopsis. Learning that Norbdo works in Greenland offered me some hope that he would be able to shed some unique light on the setting, as well as the story’s development throughout. Danish journalist Matthew Cave is sent to Greenland to cover their upcoming elections. However, there is a sensational story coming out of the small community of Nuuk, which demands Cave’s attention. A man is found on the ice, his organs removed in a brutal manner. While it surely could be one of the many wild animals in the region, the cuts seem to precise and clean to be anything but that of a knife blade in a human’s hand. As Cave begins to investigate a little more, the body count increases and the severity of the attacks seem to be growing as well. Cave pokes around and discovers a connection to a set of crimes from back in 1973, where small children were kidnapped. As the community is reeling, Cave’s editors are demanding answers and sensational coverage, which he is not yet ready to offer. Following the trail, Cave discovers that some of the missing children have reappeared, as though they were dropped from the sky decades later, with no past and for no known reason. As he wrestles with his own personal demons, Cave must follow this case through to the end, even if the results are anything but satisfying. An interesting story that Nordbo makes his own, though there was some element missing to make it stellar. Those who like Scandinavian mysteries may find something worthwhile herein, though I felt the flow and entire premise fell a bit flat for my liking.

What is it that defines a Scandinavian mystery? Must the author hail from that region to be given this classification? Perhaps the story must take place within those countries defined as ‘Scandinavian’? I ask this because the story takes place entirely in Greenland, which may be part of the Danish territories, but the flavour of the novel is definitely unique. Nordbo uses this unique approach to flavour his novel in such a way to allow it to stand out, as well as some of the biographical information I provided above. Much of the setting and the societal norms differ greatly from those used in the numerous Scandinavian novels I have read, though this uniqueness is not entirely unwelcome. Matthew Cave is an interesting character and proves to be a worthy protagonist. Receiving his surname from his father, a member of the American military stationed in Greenland, Cave left the area at the age of four to settle in Denmark. This strain from any father figure proves to be a recurring issue throughout the novel, as does the loss of his wife and unborn child, thereby erasing his chance to be a father. Nordbo uses this thread to push the story along, as Cave seeks to piece together some of the happenings to those children from 1973 and the resulting murders in more modern times. Cave proves to be an effective journalist, but I did not feel a connection to him, which may be more to do with the style of writing that Nordbo offers. Many of the other characters who grace the pages of this book are a mix of gritty members of the police or community members, who mix a Danish and local indigenous culture into their daily lives. Nordbo tosses names and terminology around with ease, leaving a reader not entirely adept with either to flounder. Still, I was able to make some general connections and limped my way through the piece. The story’s premise was decent and I am pleased to have been able to follow it, but it was also weakened by a lack of flow and jilted writing. A mix of short and longer chapters, the story seemed to sputter along and I could not entirely tell if it was the translation that was causing me such distress or a lack of cohesive writing in whatever language. I have often said that Scandinavian novels seem to offer a seamless transition when translated, but this was surely an exception. I noticed that this was the first in what might be an upcoming series, so I am not sure if I want to continue when the next piece surfaces. That being said, I am forewarned and forearmed, should I choose to continue. Other readers preparing for this undertaking should be as well.

Kudos, Mr. Nordbo, for a decent effort, though it missed the mark for me. I can only hope that others find something stellar in this writing, as it did not meet by, admittedly, high expectations.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: