“HE DESERVED IT”
DISCLAIMER: For ease of typing and transferring content on specialized web pages, I have chosen not to use the accents that normally accompany the Icelandic names in this story. I do not mean any disrespect.
The Serious Crime unit in Reykjavik, Iceland, has been handed the case of a man found bludgeoned to death in a vacant warehouse. Normally, this kind of case would not come to Gunna Gisladottir and her team, but it is not what was done but to whom it was done that prompts the assignment. About five years ago, Borgar Jonsson, a generally despised businessman with multiple enterprises, was convicted of vehicular manslaughter in the DUI death of a child riding a bicycle. Both the family of the boy and the public in general were outraged when Borgar received only eight years as a sentence. As a child killer, he had a less than stellar experience in prison; so, hoping to avoid a death on their hands, the prison authorities paroled Borgar after only four years. Now, two months later, Borgar is dead anyway.
With the victim the lead story in the news all over Iceland, Gunna and Helgi have their hands full sifting through the horde of suspects. To a man, they all declare that Borgar deserved what he got. They also declare that they did not give him what they feel he deserved. The most likely suspects, the boy’s parents and Borgar’s former business partner, have iron-clad, irrefutable alibis. But that doesn’t mean that one of them didn’t have someone do it for them.
At this point, Bates twists the storyline away from Gunna, our main series protagonist, to Helgi, when circumstances suggest that the killer resides in his old hometown. Helgi left there years ago for a reason and his return as a special investigator does not bode well.
It was good to experience more from Helgi’s POV than usual. Bates has now given him an emotional depth to go along with the professional persona we have experienced previously. Like Gunna, Helgi was chosen for this special team because he possesses a unique skill set in terms of investigative technique. But he is not without flaws, and his trip back to his hometown is not without missteps. And these mistakes provide potential fodder for sub-plots in future entries to the series. Since Bates has already published two more books since this short story, I look forward to seeing if any of the hooks have caught their prey there.
Even though the majority of this 60-page short story revolves around Helgi’s part of the investigation, Gunna has significant presence also, particularly as the de facto head of the team. Her respectful but straight-from-the-hip style of dealing with her team and with other cops as well as with suspects and witnesses is impressive and produces results.
To that end, Bates employs two scenes that are well worth watching for as you read. One takes place in the chapter titled, “Monday,” when the executive director of the halfway house where Borgar lived ignores Gunna completely, assuming Helgi is the officer in charge simply because he’s a man. Rather than taking public offense and correcting the man up front, Gunna and Helgi use the presumption to their advantage and manage, quite satisfactorily, to put the cretin back under his rock.
The other scene takes place in the same chapter. This scene involves Gunna and Saevaldur, the egotistical and shortsighted Chief Inspector who has been lobbying to become head of Gunna’s unit. Forced by office politics to take an elevator with Saevaldur, Gunna knows that some kind of devious verbal parlay is coming. Having learned the ramifications of criticizing this man in front of witnesses, she waits for the digs to commence, stops the elevator mid-flight and goes succinctly into “put-up-or-shut-up” mode. By the end of the short scene, you see how a year in her new position has matured her and you almost feel sorry for Saevaldur – almost, but not quite. And you will have a new expression for your verbal repertoire, particularly if you’re a Yank: “There’s no need to throw all your toys out of the pram!”
Bates has crafted a smartly paced bridging short story that is well worth the price being asked in spite of its small size. It is a concise tale that is more concerned with “who” than with “why.” According to every suspect, every interested party – and the killer – we already know why: He deserved it.
Cover Art From Goodreads