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re­leased OUT now! 325 pages | Hard­back/ebook

Au­thor steinar bragi Pub­lisher macmil­lan

With their windswept deserts, Ice­land’s vol­canic hin­ter­lands are a per­fect set­ting for an un­set­tling hor­ror story.

Cen­tring on four friends forced to shel­ter at a re­mote farm­house af­ter their jeep breaks down, The Ice Lands makes good use of its at­mo­spheric nat­u­ral sur­round­ings. Af­ter be­ing taken in by a mys­te­ri­ous cou­ple, di­vi­sions be­tween the quar­tet worsen as they dis­cover that there’s no es­cape from the eerie, limbo-es­que en­vi­ron­ment they’re ap­par­ently stuck in.

Rem­i­nis­cent of The Shin­ing, The Ice Lands has also been com­pared to Twin Peaks, al­though it ac­tu­ally has more in com­mon with less fan­tas­ti­cal Nordic Noir au­thors like Stieg Lars­son, as Steinar Bragi sav­agely cri­tiques the cor­rupt prac­tices that led to Ice­land’s 2008 bank­ing col­lapse.

The cast of char­ac­ters is un­sym­pa­thetic, and the first half es­pe­cially would have ben­e­fit­ted with a few less dis­cur­sions into their dodgy fi­nan­cial deal­ings and sex­ual pec­ca­dil­los. More em­pha­sis should have been placed on the Ice­landic myths evoked – par­tic­u­larly as some have a bear­ing on the char­ac­ters’ grisly fate. And though cu­ri­ously com­pelling, the way the am­bigu­ous end­ing leaves much left un­re­solved is frus­trat­ing. Stephen Jewell

Ice­landic hor­ror is rare, but we can just about rec­om­mend 2009’s Reyk­javik Whale Watch­ing Mas­sacre.

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