A mummified corpse is found on an ice cap in Greenland, which is initially thought to be that of a Viking dating back centuries. On the second day of covering the story, journalist Matthew Cave is shocked to witness a bloody spectacle at the site of discovery. The corpse is missing, and the spot where the mummy was kept is glistening red with blood. The lifeless, naked body of the police officer who was guarding the mummy during the night was lying there, and it was “gutted from groin to breastbone”.
Simultaneously, all the pictures of the corpse taken by the photographer disappear, and Matthew’s editor asks him not to report anything citing pressure from higher-ups. To keep himself occupied, Matthew starts digging into four unsolved, brutal murders that happened in 1973. Little does he know his investigation will open a Pandora’s box of lies and secrets. On top of this, he meets Tupaarnaq, a young woman released after being twelve years in prison for murdering her parents and two sisters. Is Tupaarnaq somehow related to these murders?
The premise seemed interesting, and the book cover offered the hint of a gruesome murder mystery. Thus, I selected this book. However, contrary to my expectations, The Girl without Skin failed to grip me in the gut. Like Stieg Larson’s Millenium Trilogy series, here too, an investigative journalist, Matthew, strikes an unlikely relationship with a brilliant but traumatized girl, Tupaarnaq. The similarity ends here since this book does not match up to the brilliance of the aforenamed series.
The book started out well enough. It sucked me into the action from the first page. But as it progressed, the story became slack. The seamless transition between the past and present notwithstanding, I pushed myself to continue reading. I was far more fascinated by the events of the past than the present. Every time Matthew’s story came up, I would be impatient to progress to the accounts of 1973.
The quality of the prose is nothing to write home about. It’s impassive. The same can be said about the way the breathtaking beauty of Greenland has been described. I don’t know if this is because the essence of the novel was lost in translation.
I also failed to connect to Tupaarnaq – an important character in the novel. Her all-black clothing, her tattoos, her angry demeanor—all of these I can understand. But I wanted to know her beyond her physical description. I wanted to know what she was feeling.
The book’s saving grace is its plot. It’s credible and undoubtedly intriguing. You will have no choice but to read till the last to solve the whodunit. I honestly did not see the twist coming. The unembellished prose does a great job in bringing the action sequences to life. The plot is the sole reason why I am rating this book 3 stars. If the story would have been taut from start till finish, I would have rated it higher.
First-time readers of Nordic crime will like this book. There are violent scenes in this novel so, select it only if you can handle dark themes.
Thanks to NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Kindle Edition, 352 pages, To be released on 21st June, 2019, by Text Publishing Company