Brenda's Reviews > Cold Comfort

Cold Comfort by Quentin Bates
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Jan 14, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: first-reads
Read from January 25 to 29, 2012

As noted in the case of proverbial excess (too many cooks in a kitchen), too many characters (specifically villains) can diminish the flavor of a finished product (in this case the mystery dish concocted by Quentin Bates). While I enjoyed sampling another novel set in a Nordic environment--and I appreciated learning about skyr (a yogurtish Icelandic goop) after discovering the taste for boiled sheep's head in Arnaldur Idridison's crime fiction, I wanted more tidbits of this country's culture and lore.

As I read, I realized that "who done it" interests me less than the ambience of the fictional room. I wanted to learn more than I did; but, Bates had little room for developing the environment of his police procedural because he'd already committed himself to organizing so many bodies (living and dead). He over-populates his novel--and, so, I occasionally had difficulty telling Hallur from Hogni, Bjarki from Bjartmar, Skari from Sindri. However, I do think I eventually kept the line up straight. (Don't ask me to identify any of the suspects in the morning, though. Their outlines are already starting to fade.)

Another factor that probably affected my reading experience should also be mentioned. Since I won my copy in a First Reads giveaway, I was provided with an uncopyedited proof. I can only hope that the eventual hardcover edition will contain visual markers (white space) to signal changes in time and scene. In my edition, transitions were not marked so that one conversation blurred into another. At first, I kept having to back up to determine how characters from different story lines suddenly seemed to be in the same room. I'd think, "Hey, I didn't realize he was there," then, I'd realize: "No, he isn't and neither are we. Now, we're somewhere else with someone else." If I were watching a movie, I would probably get a fade out, then in to serve as segue. Here, I found myself segue-less so my read was a bit challenged. Future readers may have an easier time immersing themselves if they can only tell when one scene becomes another.

Still, I did appreciate the opportunity to review this novel. I can imagine it eventually being streamlined for a PBS production of Mystery. I liked the fact that the female investigator did not seem morose--and despite the economic climate of the novel, I did not find the narrative entirely bleak.
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