REVIEW: The Blood Strand by Chris Ould (Jan Reyna (Faroes Novels) #1)

Series: Jan Reyna (Faroes Novels)

Book Number: 1

Read this book for: enjoyable characters, procedural accuracy, atmospheric writing, realistic mystery, Scandanavian/Nordic Noir

Quick Review: Absolutely must read. From the bleak atmosphere to the realistic characters and procedure to the perfect slow increase of tension across the piece, THE BLOOD STRAND abandons the usual overblown nature of a thriller to create an incredibly satisfying, subtle read.

To Be Released: February 16, 2016

***

Having left his home in the Faroe Islands as a very young child, Jan Reyna considers himself mainly a British detective. When he returns to the Faroes for the first time in many years to visit his estranged father who has just suffered a major stroke, he discovers a suspicious set of circumstances surrounding the man. Combined with a newly-discovered body and having been asked for input by local detective Hjalti Hentze, he finds himself learning more about his long-lost family’s secrets than he may have ever wanted to know.

I was very excited to receive an advance copy of THE BLOOD STRAND from Titan Books (thank you!!), because the descriptions of this novel promised to unite several of my favourite things: a BAFTA-winning screenwriter, and both British and Nordic crime fiction.

THE BLOOD STRAND did not disappoint.

The Faroes are a bit of a unique setting for a crime novel. A tiny set of islands between Scotland and Iceland, the grey, rain- and wind-swept landscape provided a perfect setting for this novel. In fact, the wild and barren landscape combined with the neat, functional and utilitarian architecture that is briefly described throughout creates a setting so bleak that I was reminded strongly of Henning Mankell’s work in some places. The islands themselves almost become a character in their own right, and lend a feeling of brooding solitude to the entire story.

The human characters are equally varied and interesting. Jan Reyna and Hjalte Hentze were incredibly relatable characters, and served as a perfect balance for each other – Reyna more inclined to some action while Hentze was more reserved until all angles had been considered. Both of them were easy to understand and quite approachable. Even secondary characters were interesting, varied, and had believable faults and motivations. They were interesting, and I found myself wanting to know more about them, too.

Of course, true to the thriller genre and Nordic noir especially, no more detail was provided than was absolutely necessary. Ould’s writing style is very crisp, simple and unfussy, making it a very easy read. In fact, the writing was almost to the point of being sparse and subdued, which added to that sense of bleakness that grew over the course of THE BLOOD STRAND.

And grow over the novel it did. Ould’s control of pacing over the course of THE BLOOD STRAND is absolutely remarkable, and one of my favourite things about this novel. The increase in tension over the course of the book was so smooth and subtle that you don’t realize it’s happening, page-by-page. It’s only when stopping and looking back that you realize just how much more tense and anxious you are to see a resolution than you were at first! The fact that this novel lacks most of the standard explosions, shootouts and fireworks that a typical crime novel uses to create that tension just makes it all the more special.

Special mention also has to be made about the realistic nature of the case and the investigative procedure. It’s slow, connections are made logically without great leaps, there is waiting for evidence processing and bureaucratic blockages. One step at a time, as pieces are added, the tension ratchets up as more of the picture is seen. The entire process is completely believable, and the case is concluded quite satisfyingly, although you are left wanting to know more about Reyna and Hentze’s future.

THE BLOOD STRAND is due out on February 16, 2016, and I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of this subtle and satisfying read. I will definitely be looking out for the next two in the series as well in 2017 and 2018!

 

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