Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley. I also love Puffins. Screw penguins! Puffins are da bomb.
Betty Webb’s first Gunn mystery was one of the first books I read on my first kindle. I picked it up because it had an anteater in the title and was offered as a freebie. All the cozy mysteries that I have tried since then owe a thank you to Webb because without that good first volume, I would not have given cozy mysteries a try.
This installment finds everyone’s over named zookeeper, just call her Teddy, traveling to Iceland to pick up puffins!!!! Oh and a couple of foxes and a polar beer named Magnus. Since the book is not called the Polar Bear of Death or the Icelandic Fox Murder, we all know that Puffins are the most important animal, even if the some people think polar bear cubs are cuter. Anyhow, not long into her stay in Iceland, there is murder that traumatizes some poor Puffin mother (the victim was a birdwatcher, though he didn’t like puffins, so he had it coming), and despite her good intentions, Teddy is roped into solving it.
What Webb presents to the reader is part cozy mystery, part love story to Iceland, and part superior tourist spot. Honestly, if the Icelandic tourist industry didn’t pay Webb to write this book, they should cut her a check. Unlike some books that just use foreign locales to be, well, foreign and exotic, Webb goes to the trouble of actually making the reader aware of Icelandic culture, language, food, and place. You really do feel like you’re in Iceland, and the Icelanders don’t act like Swedes, Danes, or the American stereotype of Nordic society. Webb might be making a nod to the popularity of Nordic crime fiction, in particular the Erlandur books, but her Iceland is just as much a character in the book as the puffins are. Webb’s love for the country comes across quite well. Additionally, she does poke a little fun at how Americans stereotype anything that seems North of England.
This is done by giving Teddy Icelandic friends as well as using the slightly disapproving regular character type of Nordic detective that Webb uses quite well in the character of Thor. Bryndis, who is Teddy’s roommate and polar bear keeper trainer, quickly becomes a friend, and one of the joys of the novels is watching all the female characters pass the Bechtel test in spades. The location also allows for Teddy to act as Teddy and not as the fiancée of Joe, which is how some writers, not Webb mind you, would have written her.
It’s true that the observation reader can figure out who did it before the end, but Teddy’s conclusion and the reader’s will mostly like be close together, so the reader isn’t feeling far smarter or far stupider than the heroine. Webb gets a huge round of bonus points for actually taking Iceland’s crime rate and justice system into account, and some of the best scenes are the use of the American system, the Icelandic system, and the Hollywood view of the American system.
All in all, a fun read.
And it has puffins!