A good thriller can do more than just keep your pulse up and keep the pages turning as you rush to figure out what happened and whether something worse is going to happen soon. It can also introduce you as a reader to another time, another culture, without reducing any of the tension. Two new thrillers take us to unique and unusual times and places, so if you’re interested in the wilds of Montana in the present time or Iceland during World War II, you’re in luck.
A Sharp Solitude, by Christine Carbo, is set in the gorgeous and very wild Glacier National Park in Montana, and the setting is an essential part of the story. A journalist, Anne Marie Johnson, was staying near the Canadian border in the wilderness of the Glacier National Park, researching for an article about a canine program where specially trained dogs help do scientific research. She was interviewing Reeve Landon, owner of one of the dogs in the program, just before her murdered body was found, so Landon is obviously one of the main suspects in her death. Landon contacts his former lover, the mother of his child, FBI investigator Ali Paige, and asks her to help him. Of course she’s not supposed to be working on this case at all: the crime appears to have been committed outside Federal land, and her relationship with the chief suspect would disqualify her even if the FBI had jurisdiction. But that doesn’t mean she can turn her back on Landon, and so she starts working to find out who really killed Anne Marie, as Landon runs deeper into the wilderness to hide from the tightening noose, at the same time feeling he might deserve this persecution because of a terrible thing he did when he was younger. The book switches back and forth between his viewpoint and Ali’s, as the characters discover that even in the vastness of the Montana country, no one can truly outrun his past.
Arnaldur Indridason’s The Shadow Killer takes place in 1941 in Iceland, where the British army forces are leaving the island and being replaced by American ones. A man is murdered in a small apartment in Reykjavik, shot through the head with an American weapon, the blood drawn into a swastika pattern. Two people, neither of whom has much experience investigating murders, are brought together to investigate what happened and who’s responsible. Their investigation begins with difficulty, as the main suspect, the murdered man’s roommate, is nowhere to be found, and things get more complicated as people who might be suspects include the dead man’s former girlfriend, who had left him to fraternize with the soldiers, and some of the soldiers stationed in the city. The more the investigators dig into the background of the roommate, the more unsavory it seems, especially his involvement with a Nazi experiment on young children. There are too many secrets people are keeping in this environment of spies and counter spies, locals and foreigners and the background of the war complicating everything, and the question becomes more than just who committed this crime, but encompasses the whole changing world of wartime Iceland.