Death in a Cold Climate by Robert Barnard (1982)

Death in a Cold Climate by Robert Barnard is said to be “A Guide to Scandinavian Crime Fiction” by critics. This novel is groundbreaking in it’s description of like in Tromso, Norway and places like it. It is on the brink of “poisionville” and paradise with it’s descriptive setting imagery and the idea of being a foreigner in this land. 

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For the most part, I enjoyed this reading. The novel takes a minute to take off, but when it does, it is a lot more enjoyable for me as the reader. One thing that I thought was interesting was the style of the novel. It was written in 3rd person omniscient and it follows several stories from different points of view of the narrator. From the beginning, it could be a bit confusing, but as the book progresses, the reader can see how these different stories are interwoven in a clever way.  One of the most important pats of the novel is setting. As I have stated before, it takes place in a land that could be paradise for some, mostly the ones that grew up in North  Norway, or those who call Tromso home. For foreigners, it seems to be not as welcoming and they seem to have their own issues with politics and police of Norway. The novel begins setting up the setting of the town, and the novel itself,

“Seen from the windows of the cafe, the main street assumed an aspect less than solid, though more than shadow. The light, such as it was, has a temporary, unwilling feeling to it. The sky had earlier been faintly tinged with a pallid blue, but the haze and cloud had robbed it by now of any suggestions of daylight.” 

 The setting shows landscapes no one would want to travel to along with bleak weather, and detectives of depressive and obsessive natures and a number of violent scenes. Though these things seem like things for a publishing disaster, it was very successful in the literary genre. The tall, blond boy went missing three months before his body was found by  a Professor Mackenzie’s dog who was sniffing around the snow and found a human ear which was attached to a naked corpse in the arctic tundra. Detective Fagermo wants desperately to know what happened to the boy. One thing that was interesting is that he reminded me of Martin Beck from Roseanna by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö with not only his obsession to solving the crime, but also, further understanding the victim, something that does not often happen in a police procedural. 



I give this book 3 stars out of 5. It was bit slow to start, but it does give the reader a fresher look into Nordic literature. I would say this would be a perfect book for someone who frequents Scandinavian crime fiction and more familiar with other authors and stories of the style. The book does a good job of discussing different cultures like that of Englishmen versus Americans and Russians, giving a glimpse on beliefs these different individuals have on Norway. Overall, this is a well-written and fresh novel for any reader, and I enjoyed majority of reading. 


Barnard, Robert. Death in a Cold Climate. Macmillan Bello, 2012.

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