Author: Ragnar Jonasson
Publisher: Penguin Michael Joseph UK
Read: December 2021
Expected publication: 28 April 2022
My Rating: 🌟🌟
In the swirling snow of a deadly
Icelandic storm, four friends seek shelter in a small abandoned hunting lodge.
Miles from help, and knowing they will die outside in the cold, they break open
the lock and make their way inside, hoping to wait out the storm until morning.
But nothing can prepare them for what they find behind the door . . .
Inside the cabin lurks a dangerous presence that chills them to their core.
Outside, certain death from exposure awaits.
So with no other option, they find themselves forced to spend a long, terrifying night in the cabin, watching as intently and silently as they are being watched themselves.
But as the evening darkens, old secrets are beginning to find their way to the light.
And as the tension escalates between the four friends, it soon becomes clear that the danger they discovered lurking in the cabin is far from the only mystery that will be uncovered tonight.
Nor the only thing to be afraid of . . .
Ragnar Jonasson is the master of chilly, atmospheric settings, which is why I will always rush out to get my hands on every one of his books! In OUTSIDE, he has turned this skill to good use again as he describes the stark, lonely cabin in the Highlands of Iceland, where four friends find themselves stranded in a blizzard. Having been to Iceland in winter, I could well imagine the cold, the howling winds, the long dark night and the isolation, and I loved the chills this sent down my spine!
However, I am wondering if something got lost in translation for me, because even though the setting was wonderfully atmospheric, the human part of the story didn’t work so well. As we get the POV of each of the friends, I was hoping for some connection and an insight into their motivations, but this never came. It was difficult to distinguish between the characters’ voices, as they all appeared rather flat and unemotional, making me feel firmly on the outside and puzzled at their intentions. In fact, some parts of the story were just plain strange and made little sense, in particular the involvement of the fifth character, which was too far of a stretch to be credible. I would have loved more dialogue and emotional interaction between the friends to build tension and introduce some rationale for their motivations instead of just having this spelled out in the final chapters without the emotional background to make it more understandable.
Having read many previous novels by the author I have always enjoyed his sparse, to-the-point prose that usually manages to set the scene well and moves the story along at a good pace. Here, however, I needed a bit more background and emotion to bond with the characters. It may have worked better to just give us one or two POVs to be able to bond with those characters, than four perspectives that just skimmed the surface.
Even though I remain a firm fan of Jonasson’s books, I feel that this one fell a bit short for me, which is probably related to my specific reading preferences. I am a reader who very much needs the emotional ties to at least one character to make me feel invested in the story, and I did not get that here. Which is a shame, because the setting delivered exactly the right stage on which these characters could have starred and carried me off into their world.
Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Michael Joseph UK for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.