Sunday 24 September 2017

The Frozen Woman by Jon Michelet extract

As part of The Frozen Woman blog tour we present an extract from the book. 

‘What was your first reaction when you found her,  Thygesen?’ Stribolt asks.
 Vilhelm Thygesen doesn’t answer. He has his eyes fixed on a point behind Stribolt, who observes the distracted look on Thygesen’s face and repeats the question in a sharper tone: ‘How did you react when you found the frozen body of the dead woman?’
‘There’s a woman trying to get in,’ Thygesen says, pointing with the stem of his pipe to the point he has been staring at. Stribolt wriggles on the leather sofa and catches sight of Vaage. She is standing on the glass veranda and fumbling with the handle of the door to Thygesen’s living room cum office. The low sun in the middle of the day, which is the second in February, a Friday, causes the frost patterns on the veranda window to glitter. Through the windows of the large log-house in Bestum the light angles in, giving the burlap wallpaper a warm glow, and is reflected by the golden letters on the spine of Norway’s Laws and other books on the shelves, causing the wisps of pipe smoke to become visible.
‘It’s not locked, but it’s awkward,’ Thygesen says, getting up and walking to the door.
Stribolt struggles to deal with the unreality of the situation. He is sitting here on official business in the home of a man whose sun he had thought had long since set. A murky legend who, it transpires, is a living legend.
Thygesen has a slight limp. His ponytail, which makes him look like an old hippie, swings back and forth. It doesn’t go with the Italian-tailored charcoal suit which Thygesen is wearing and definitely not the white shirt and grey-striped silk tie which matches the man’s hair almost too perfectly.
To Stribolt it is unimaginable that Thygesen should comb his mane into a ponytail and wear a fashionable suit on a daily basis. He had expected a scruffier turnout.
Leaving to meet Thygesen, he had assumed he would be confronted by a wreck, a shipwrecked mariner washed ashore on the sea of life.
Stribolt makes a note on his pad lying on the coffee table: T has tarted himself up for us.
Thygesen kicks the door as he twists the handle.
A cold blast of air enters from the veranda. It is freezer temperature outside: minus 18 degrees. Ruddy-faced Vaage has frost on her dark fringe. She looks even more apple cheeked and attractive than usual, Stribolt muses. Everytime he works with Vaage he thinks he will have to have his haircut as short as hers, take up squash again and get himself into shape. When he was last out on the town a slip of a girl told him he looked like a Buddha with a Beatles wig sliding off the back of his head. Not hard to say something like that when you are in the Buddha Bar, but he took it to heart and the sight of the clientele made him bristle with anger, all those tossers on financial steroids. Now it annoys him that Vaage is wearing an almost identical shiny blue pilot’s jacket to his. They aren’t in uniform. Although they look as if they are, just not a police uniform.
‘More like taxi drivers,’ Stribolt mumbles.
Vaage removes her gloves, shakes Thygesen’s hand and introduces herself.
‘I’m also a Kripos detective,’ she says. ‘A chief inspector like my colleague Stribolt here.’
‘Coffee?’ Thygesen asks. ‘I’ve put a pot on.’
‘No, thanks,’ Vaage says.
Stribolt accepts.
While Thygesen goes out, Vaage examines the room, clearly with some disapproval. Perhaps she thinks it is repugnant that a couple of logs are crackling away on the fire while a very cold woman is lying under a tarpaulin in a corner of Thygesen’s large, overgrown garden.
‘I thought this bugger Thygesen didn’t have two øre to rub together,’ Vaage says under her breath. ‘He’d gone to the dogs. Done for murder in the seventies, petty fraud in the nineties. Alkie and all-round dick. And then here he is, poncing around in this million-dollar pad in the West End of Oslo.’
‘It’s just a rambling old house,’ Stribolt says.
‘Imagine what he can get for this place, the plot alone.
Why’s he trying to trick old dears out of the odd krone when he has all this?’
‘It’s dangerous to give credence to rumours,’ Stribolt answers, turning down the volume of the stereo, which is playing a jazz CD, possibly Miles Davis. ‘Our friends at Grønland Police HQ are not always well informed. The two fraud charges against Thygesen were dropped for lack of evidence.’
‘What we have in the garden is murder,’ Vaage says.
‘Premeditated murder, I would think. The poor girl has been hacked about in every conceivable way.’
Vaage roams around restlessly and scrutinises a new, green transparent iMac on a computer desk, a thick book beside it, next to a south-facing window overlooking the garden.
‘Is Thygesen a member of some morose sect?’ she asks, lifting up the book.
Lichtturm is written on the cover in big letters.
‘I think it’s a stamp catalogue,’ Stribolt says, trying not to let his voice sound too cutting. He has never got used to the sudden changes in Vaage’s temperament and deals with her forthrightness badly every time. She can be as capricious as the weather on his childhood coast.
‘Right, I thought it might be one of those sect books,’ Vaage says.
‘Lighthouse or whatever it’s called. You’ve heard about Watchtower, haven’t you, Smartie Pants?’

The Frozen Woman by Jon Michelet (No Exit Press) translated by Don Bartlett
Hbk £12.99. Published September 21, 2017
In the depths of the Norwegian winter, the corpse of a woman is discovered in the garden of a notorious left-wing lawyer, Vilhelm Thygesen. She has been stabbed to death.  A young biker, a member of a gang once represented by Thygesen, dies in suspicious circumstances.  As Thygesen receives anonymous threats, investigating detectives Stribolt and Vaage uncover a web of crime and violence extending far beyond Norway’s borders.  Does the frozen woman hold the key?

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