BRUCE DESILVA Associated Press
It’s reunion week in Iceland for Daniel, Armann, Gunnlaugur and Helena, who were tight in college and like to get together every year or so to drink a lot and catch up.
They all have problems. Daniel lied about the poor state of his acting career. Armann, owner of a multi-million dollar travel guide business, is a recovering drug addict. Gunnlaugur, an alcoholic lawyer who got away with rape, is obsessed with Helena. And she, an engineer at a tech start-up, mourns the death of her boyfriend and believes his so-called accident was actually murder.
At the opening of “Outside”, Ragnar Jonasson’s ninth thriller translated from the island into English, they gather in anticipation of partying in the capital, Reykjavik. However, Armann, the recognized leader of the group, makes a last minute change of plans. They will go hunting ptarmigan in the desolate moors of Iceland, although most of them have little experience with firearms.
Armann checks the weather report before leaving, but as they trudge across the moors, barely a bird in sight, a blizzard is howling from the west, the snow is so deep they can only see a few feet away. in front of them. With his guiding skills, he leads them to an abandoned hunting cabin, but once inside they discover they are not alone.
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A man with a shotgun sits in the corner, a gun in his arms. No matter how hard they try, they can’t get him to say a single word.
Over the hours, the author raises the tension little by little. The occupants of the claustrophobic cabin have only their clothes for warmth. Their cell phones do not work. Either way, rescuers would never be able to reach them until the storm subsided.
And the armed stranger watches in silence – for hours – as the blizzard rages on.
The author alternates viewpoints, with each of the four friends taking turns as their stories unfold and they gradually discover that they may not be such good friends after all.
Jonasson and translator Victoria Cribb do a great job setting the scene, developing the characters, and keeping readers hooked with a tight, clean, dark style of prose.
“Someone,” said Helen prophetically, “is going to die before the end of this trip.”