|I WILL MISS YOU TOMORROW
Heine Bakkeid (heinebakkeid.com)
Translated by Anne Bruce
Raven Books (www.bloomsbury.com)
Fresh out of prison, ex-policeman and Internal Affairs investigator Thorkild Aske is hired to investigate the disappearance of a young man on the remote northern coast of Norway. Rasmus Moritzen, known by residents of the area around Tromsø as “The Dane” has disappeared at sea while trying to convert a local lighthouse into an activity hotel. Rasmus is related to Frei, the woman who Aske loved, and for whose murder he has just served time in prison, so Aske is not exactly of sound mind when he arrives in the freezing north. When he discovers the badly decomposed body of a woman on the island on which the lighthouse stands – a body that is stolen before his eyes – it sets in motion a chain of events that lead to Thorkild Aske once again on the wrong end of an interrogation suite, and his fragile sanity hanging by little more than a thread.
When it comes to atmospheric crime fiction, the Scandinavians are often hard to beat: they’ve got the weather, the landscapes and the attitudes that are often specific to the far northern climes. Heine Bakkeid is a new kid on the block, and he’s straight in with possibly the most noir Scandinoir ever, in his debut, which introduces us to the highly original Thorkild Aske.
Aske immediately stands out in the crowded field due to his recent stint in prison and to his fragile mental state. We learn that Aske attempted – and, obviously, failed – to commit suicide whilst incarcerated, and that his sentence was imposed after he killed the woman he loved. We’re given very little other information at this point and so, we find ourselves in the presence of a broken man whose only future seems to be the soul-destroying manning a desk in a call centre. Being hired to find a missing person may seem like a stroke of good fortune, but when he discovers that the man who wishes to hire him is the uncle of the woman he killed, the reader can see the massive conflict of interest – and the trouble it may cause – even if Aske himself cannot.
As the book opens, and for the first quarter or so, there’s little to redeem Aske in our minds. Here we have a depressed and seemingly unfixable protagonist in a bleak part of the world with very little to live for. It’s a daunting prospect, though fortunately Bakkeid begins to inject a dark and dry humour into proceedings that often lighten the mood at the most inopportune moment, the jarring juxtaposition the perfect antidote to Aske’s self-absorbed personality. So, when he discovers the decomposed body of a young woman, which is subsequently stolen by a mysterious figure in a diving suit, we find ourselves understanding Aske’s frustration while everyone else questions his state of mind, and his trustworthiness as a witness. His recent past, and his unconventional approach to his investigation quickly make him the prime suspect in a series of crimes that follow his arrival at Rasmus’ lighthouse.
As the novel progresses, we gain glimpses into the recent past to discover just who Frei was, how she ended up dead, and how her death resulted in imprisonment and expulsion from the police force for Aske. Rather than ultimately showing Aske in a good light, these glimpses do nothing to improve our first impressions of this man or of his ability to operate in the real world. Aske, it seems, is the anti-Midas: everything he touches turns to shit, and everyone he meets comes away worse off for the experience, from his mousy and abused sister, to the clairvoyant nurse who tries to put him in touch with Frei and the provincial policemen on whom he must count for help.
It’s difficult to envision how this might develop into a series – call-centre operatives are not usually known for their exciting adventures – but you can be sure I’ll be first in the queue when Thorkild Aske returns in Meet Me In Paradise next year. I Will Miss You Tomorrow is a fresh take on a well-trodden genre, an engaging and character-driven mystery that introduces us to an investigator like none we’ve ever seen before. Straddling the boundaries between crime and the supernatural – we’re never quite sure what way the outcome will go – we find ourselves drawn to the broken Thorkild Aske and his repeated attempts to make sense of a world to which he no longer belongs. With a wry humour and a razor-sharp attention to detail, Heine Bakkeid proves that we haven’t yet seen everything, that there are still plenty of places for our favourite genres to go, including – believe it or not – the somewhat tired Scandinoir. In short: first class crime fiction that should be on everyone’s list before the inevitable adaptation hits our screens.