cover image Outside

Outside

Ragnar Jónasson, trans. from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb. Minotaur, $27.99

In this disappointing standalone from Jónasson (The Girl Who Died), Daníel, a struggling actor living in London, travels to Reykjavík to join three friends for a reunion: Helena, an engineer; Ármann, an entrepreneurial tour guide; and Gunnlaugur, a lawyer. Ármann has organized a hunting weekend, but things go massively wrong on the moors. A blizzard forces the group, with minimal gear, to shelter in a disused hunting hut, where they encounter something genuinely shocking (Daníel “had never been so afraid in his life”). The payoff for this early fright is a long time coming as the novel focuses on the foursome’s backstories, which illuminate the motive for the expedition. It’s a dandy premise, and Jónasson does a good job of connecting the dots, but the plot is built on a rickety foundation. Would an experienced and successful guide like Ármann be so ill prepared? He creates a decent amount of suspense and horror and is great at conveying the menace of an Icelandic winter, but some readers will find what happens too hard to swallow. Hopefully, Jónasson will return to form next time. Agent: David Headley, DHH Literary (U.K.).