The Girl Without Skin

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 15 Jan 2019

Member Reviews

Translated from Scandinavian this is a great example of Nordic crime noir.  The opening chapter is quite graphic and gets my heart rate up a little.
Matthew works for a newspaper and is still haunted by nightmares of the day his wife and unborn child were killed in a car accident.  He is one of the first on the scene when the body of what appears to be a mummified Norseman is discovered.  Shortly after the police officer guarding the body is found gutted and his intestines missing.
When his story is blocked Matthew focuses on a series of unsolved murders and discovers the victims may have been more evil than the murderer/s.  He is handed a copy of a journal relating to that time and hopes it will contain some answers to the past and possibly the present.  He learns Jakob Pedersen was the officer who tried to protect a little girl from abuse and who mysteriously disappeared.
When past and present join shocking crimes are revealed.  This is a gripping, emotionally taut novel with strong characters and plenty of atmosphere.  Interesting title and cover helped tempt me initially.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for a free digital copy of the book in return for an honest review.
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The Girl Without Skin begins with what seems to be an important historical find, a Norse mummy in a crevasse. A police officer left to guard the body is murdered, his body flensed and eviscerated with an ulu, as though the murderer was skinning a seal. When journalist Matthew Cave begins to invesigate the murder, he is told about a series of four murders back in the 1970s that were uncannily similar–four men all flensed and eviscerated.

Matthew is given a notebook kept by Jacob, the man who investigated the murders in the Seventies. He is captivated by the man’s writing, poetic and emotionally rich descriptions of the land, and intrigued by the case.The forty-year-old mystery is centered on the abuse of young Greenlander girls. Their fathers are murdered, but Jacob comes to suspect there is a connection to Greenland’s most powerful leaders. Matthew soon learns they are involved again as he is threatened directly.

The police are certain a recently released woman named Tupaarnaq  is involved in the new murders. She was convicted of killing her mother, sisters, and father and has the kind of powerful self-possession of Lisbeth Salander. Matthew is fascinated, awed, and certain she is innocent. They work together to solve the case.



Mads Peder Nordbo creates a vivid environment, cold, damp, and fog-bound. He makes the environment an integral component of the story. Even the murders grow out of the customs of Greenland. The flaying of the murder victims with an ulu is a skill many learned when hunting seals. The sense of place is strong enough to bring me back to read the rest of the series when it is available even though I have some serious criticims of the book.

There are too many plots in The Girl Without Skin. There are the four murders in the Seventies, the disappearance of investigator Jakob, the sexual abuse of young girls, medical experiments, government corruption, the murder of Tupaarnaq’s family, the current murders, and the disappearance of the corpse in the crevasse.

While I recognize that many of the Danes are portrayed as corrupt, this book suffers from the “white savior” syndrome. The Inuit portrayed are consistently as complicit in the crimes and Matthew and Jakob, the white saviors seeking justice. If Tupaarnaq were centered as the hero, the story would be more interesting, but instead she is exoticised by Matthew. The Danish/Greenlander relationship is fraught with the same biases of all colonial relationships and they permeate the book.

I received an e-galley of The Girl Without Skin from the publisher through NetGalley.

The Girl Without Skin at Text Publishing Company
Mads Peder Nordbo author site
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the story kept me at the edge of my seat from the very beginning.... even though i didn't like how matthew was a bit timid in the beginning but i loved how his character evolved during the story.
the core of the story touches on a lot of sensitive topics such as rape and horrendous murders so a trigger warning to anyone who wishes to read it.
on in all i can't wait to read the next installment of the Matthew cave thrillers ^^
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I’m always looking for new-to-me Nordic Noir.  Greenland, hmm…now that’s different, a little bit New World, yet still under the dominion of Denmark.  This could be something with a new twist.  Toss in a mummified Viking corpse – sign me up!

The Girl Without Skin was not what I expected or hoped for.  I was in the mood for a historical/current mystery, you know the kind, that goes back and forth in time.  It was that, just not as historical as I wanted.  I was looking forward to bouncing between Matthew Cave in the here and now and this mysterious Viking from way back when.  Instead the story only went back to the 1970s.

Once the disappointment sets in, it’s hard to get into a story that I wasn’t really in the mood for.  But to be fair, Nordbo did put a lot of hard work into his story.  His skill and attention to detail was evident.

Matthew Cave has what any fan of Nordic Noir would want in their protagonist, he is damaged, but he still goes on.  Once he gets a sniff of the trouble brewing, he is like a dog with a bone and no one is taking that away from him.

I enjoyed the aspects of Greenlandic life as it was portrayed by Nordbo.  I always like to get a glimpse of how things operate in other places.

The Girl Without Skin is an interesting addition to my Nordic Noir repertoire, if only I hadn’t gotten my hopes up for a story that wasn’t there.  Well, you know what happens when you assume that a story is going to go in a certain direction.

*3 Stars
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A Nordic setting, mummified a mummified body, and a presumable link the a series of murders from the past... 
A true gem for any fan of mystery and Scandinavian/Nordic fiction.
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I wanted to read this book as I knew nothing about Greenland and its relationship to Denmark and Danish people. Matt Cave is a Danish journalist who has lost everything and is in despair. He is drawn to Nuk, a town in Greenland, and is called on to write about body discovered in the ice,, gutted and murdered in extreme violence.   During the course of his enquirers he stumbles across a very troubling history in the town and exposes a scandal many years old.  I think the translation is a bit clunky but overall the story is interesting. A bit graphic and some trigger warnings for sexual abuse.
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The Girl Without Skin is the first book in the Matthew Cave series. 
He is a journalist working on Greenland, in a town called Nuuk. When a mummified corpse in found on the ice sheet, he is sent to report the finding. But when the corpse disappears and the police officer who guarded it is found brutally murdered things start to turn bad real quick. More dead bodies turn up. As Matt delves deeper and deeper into these murders he finds out about other murders that happened in the 1970s. Those cases and the present ones are connected. But how? Why? Is the perpetrator the same? 

I’ve read my fair share of scandinavian crime novels but it seems they can always surprise me with something new. The complexity of the story is astonishing. I coudn’t stop reading it because it truly is captivating. 

The main character, Matthew Cave has a troubled past and that determines his way of thinking, the reasons of his decisions. He is a smart, determined and very emotional person, I felt connected to him instantly. 
The other main character Tuuparnaq is his complete opposite. She is a loner, very rude. She also has a troubled past, they have that in common. I think that is the reason they work. 

Thank you to NetGalley, Text Publishing and Mads Peder Nordbo for my copy. All opinions are my own.
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“The Girl Without Skin” is a well written, suspenseful novel linking current murders to similar crimes which occurred a number of years ago. This book is typical of the Nordic Noir genre, but also informs the reader about life in a little known, small community where terrible goings-on may be overlooked in the interests of political advancement.
There is a strong resemblance between the protagonists of this novel (A Danish journalist and his feisty, fearless, tattooed female helper) and those of the Millenium series by Stieg Larsson. This did not detract from my enjoyment of this gripping novel with it’s unexpected plot twists and exciting pace. Highly recommended. Thanks to Text Publishing and NetGalley for the ARC.
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I wish I’d been able to read this for longer periods at a time. As it was, I was only able to dip into a few chapters at a time, and therefore lost track a bit as I became confused by some of the Inuit names, and the time changes. 
The book gave me a fascinating glimpse into Greenland’s history and culture. I just sincerely hope that the statistics given about child abuse in that country are exaggerated, although a quick Google search confirms it’s a real issue. Apart from that issue, the book also explores political corruption and unethical medical experimentation, among others.
Matthew, a journalist with a tragic past, is setting off to cover his first big story in Nuuk, Greenland.  This was “the first time a well-preserved Norseman had ever been found, and historians and archaeologists already had high hopes that this mummy would teach them more about the everyday life of the Norsemen.”
I was hugely disappointed when the mummy subsequently disappeared as I was really interested in finding out more about this! But this disappearance laid the foundation for the story as the policeman stationed to guard the body was found gruesomely murdered. This set Matthew off to investigate not only the current case, but a series of murders that took place in the 1970s as well.
I actually enjoyed the story of those early murders more than I did the current one, as Nordbo led me from one period to the other and back again. I really enjoyed Tupaarnaq, a Greenlandic woman who had been wrongly imprisoned, yet emerged strong, stoic and determined, although fragile in some ways. 
It’s a great book, well translated, with lots of drama and surprises, and a satisfying ending.
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This is Nordic Noir at its darkest and grittiest with some very grisly murders amidst the ice and bitter winds of arctic Greenland.

Matthew Cave, a Danish journalist has recently moved to Greenland to work for the local paper after the deaths of his wife and unborn child in a horrific car crash. When a mummified corpse in a crevasse in the glacier, possibly that of a Norseman who died 600 years ago, Matthew's paper sends him to report on the find. However, the next morning the mummy has disappeared and the policeman guarding it overnight is found horribly murdered, flayed and eviscerated on the ice. Matthew's editor is reminded of similar gruesome murders from forty years ago in 1973 and suggests that he look into the similarities and he soon finds himself embroiled in a scandal that someone is still keen to keep quiet. 

In parallel with Matthew's investigation, the events of 1973 are told through the voice of Jakob Pedersen, the policeman who originally investigated the murders. Although he disappeared during the investigation but Matthew has been given his notebook with details of his discoveries. It's a gruesome tale of child abuse and corruption and Matthew soon finds his own life in danger.

The descriptions of the bleak, forbidding landscape, the harsh lives of the Greenlanders and the culture of sexism and corruption in the 1970s all lead to a very atmospheric novel. The characters are diverse and interesting, including a feisty young Innuit women, Tupaarnaq who befriends Matthew. Covered in colourful tattoos she has just been released from prison after serving time for murder. Overall, it's a brutal story with thrilling twists and a high degree of tension maintained throughout.
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With a very interesting setting in Greenland, this well written novel contains a lot of some of the worst crimes against human beings. The plot is excellent, and if you can stand the gore, it's a very good book.
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3.5 

This book reminds me a lot of Stieg Larsson's books and I think that it was wished. The main female protagonist is just like Lisbeth Salander, she has the same vibes, sassy and rude speech. About the mystery… it wasn't so much mystery, you can understand who is the murder as soon as the murder appears in the book, at the halfway point. But. The writing was really good and the characters were well described, the first scene was just impactful as an Iceberg and the "behind the scene" story really interesting. I recommend this book, maybe if you are not so high skilled with thrillers and mystery, but you wan to try something different and rough.
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Rating:   3.5 stars rounded down to 3 stars

I am usually a fan of Scandinavian Noir, but this book was kind of a middle of the road read for me.   I gave it 3.5 stars, but rounded down to 3 stars.   Three stars in the NetGalley rating system is a ‘Maybe’ for recommending to others, and that is where this book falls for me.   I’d recommend it if you have a strong stomach for violence and thinly veiled scenes of sexual abuse of girls.  I’d recommend it if you’re willing to start a less than stellar first book in a new series to see how the story arc develops in the next book of the series.  I’d recommend it if you like reading about the landscape, weather, and social structure of Greenland as I did.  It was fast paced, and suspenseful.

The hero, Matthew Cave, has recently moved to in Greenland to work as a journalist on the local paper.   For me, he jumped into the deep-end of a newly resuscitated 40-year-old murder mystery much more quickly than I would have expected that a newcomer would.   His character was a bit over blown in the sleuth role for my taste.  He worked hard in the face of local opposition and continues even after he finds another dead body that has been horribly mutilated.    Personally, that would give me pause about my level of involvement.   

Some parts of the mystery were expertly resolved.  They developments surprised me, which I always want in a mystery.   The dual storyline was a good way to go back and forth in time.   I think that I actually liked the 40 year-old storyline better than the current one.  Based on the description of Greenland and its societal structure, I realized that it isn’t a place that I would find very inviting or habitable.   It would take a strong constitution to move as outsider to this often bleak and unforgiving land.   

‘Thank-You’ to NetGalley; the publisher, Text Publishing Company; and the author, Mads Peder Nordbo; for providing a free e-ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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This book could be the start of a whole new crime genre – something like Nordic noir, with all of its gritty realism and cultural quirks: let’s call it Greenland Grim. In this new thriller you can almost feel the bitter Arctic chill streaming from its pages. The mystery begins in Greenland’s urban centre, Nuuk, a far cry from the bright lights of a warm European capital. This small, isolated settlement sees snow for ten months of the year, and in mid-winter the nights last for 20 hours…

It’s here that the discovery of a mummified, eviscerated corpse prompts a newspaper reporter to review a series of similar deaths which took place 40 years ago. His investigations trigger yet more grisly murders as the guilty successors scramble to hide the crimes of the past.

That scenario alone is an intriguing basis for a thought-provoking thriller but this book also offers startling snapshots of life in Greenland itself. It reveals the social and political conflicts between the colony and its Danish government, and the cultural clashes between Danish and Greenlandic societal norms.

You might flinch at the opening chapter because it kicks off with a gruesome, stomach-turning sequence but that is by far the most explicit episode in the entire book. Thereafter it’s a sensitive series of insights into loss and loneliness, with the two storylines packaged in Russian doll fashion, one inside the other.

That title might also suggest a ‘girl on a train’ type novel, but this is much more ‘dragon tattoo’ territory. The strong female protagonist has as much attitude and more tattoos than Lisbeth Salander – and this book is much more Scandi crime than an ‘unreliable narrator’ domestic drama.

It’s also refreshing that the author chose to balance ‘the evil that men do’ with several more nuanced male characters; emotionally vulnerable, perceptive and considerate. Too often these days the entire male gender is portrayed as being culpable in all manner of forms of abuse against women and children. It was refreshing that author Mads Peder Nordbo avoided these clichés, and instead developed his fictional characters with the 3D complexity of real people, inevitably flawed but also inherently well-intentioned.

A riveting read, then, offering some beautifully nuanced moments which reflect the stark and complex splendour of Greenland’s uncompromising landscape. It’s almost poetic in places where the author incorporates the spiritual beliefs of the indigenous people. I hugely enjoyed the historical information about the early Norse settlers and their strange disappearance, too. Can’t wait for this author’s next offering.

8/10
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Nordic Noir one of my reading guilty pleasures.
A really good storyline but be warned it is very dark and disturbing. The murders are brutal and very graphic, you have been warned. I read this book in one sitting and finally turned the last page in the wee hours. This read had me sat on the edge of my seat and tapping my kindle faster and faster. This read also had me holding my breath and in places stepping away from this book. It was a little disjointed in places but in no way did it detract from my reading pleasure. Maybe it was lost in translation. Still a very happy reader, almost five stars and so Highly Recommended. 
I would like to thank the author, Text Publishing and Netgalley for the ARC in return for giving an honest review.
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This was a beautiful, grisly, shocking and enlightening book. I've read a lot of the so-called "scandinavian noir," although never anything set in Greenland, and although Greenland isn't truly Scandinavian, being an autonomous territory of Denmark. This was among my favorites.

Readers know from the opening scene that what lies ahead maybe savage and brutal (trigger alert). 
The point-of-view character, Matthew Cave, is a damaged Danish journalist, who was born in Greenland and returned to Denmark as a very young child with his Danish mother. Thus, subtly woven into the action is the kind of cultural contrast and social commentary that can only come from an outsider.

This is not propaganda, however. It's pure propulsive narrative. The author, Mads Peder Nordbo, unflinchingly portrays the worst of human nature, a la the Greenlandic variation. But Matthew is not a hostile outsider, and he sees and feels both the beauty and the horror. 

Matthew is sent to report on the discovery of a Viking mummy in the ice fields. He hopes for an international scoop to launch his career and help him get his life back on track after a tragedy. Instead, what he investigates is a 40-year-long series of murders and a horrendous pattern of child abuse.

But I wasn't left with a feeling of gloom. I loved Nordbo's language as rendered in English by his translator, Charlotte Barslund. I loved several female characters (a child, a police employee and Tupaarnaq, a fierce tatooed felon.) I loved the air of hope that prevailed at the end of the story.

Thanks to NetGalley for an advance readers copy.
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The Girl Without Skin
Mads Peder Nordbo

The Girl Without Skin is book one in the Matthew Cave series by Danish author, Mads Peder Nordbo. The novel was translated to English by Charlotte Barslund and is Nordbo’s debut crime novel. The author has done well in his first foray into the genre.

This crime novel bravely addresses some disturbing topics: rape and incest. Current political corruption, intrigue and mystery are blended well with the past, leading to interesting plot twists. The flora and fauna are both beautifully detailed. The scenery is so vividly described and utilized that it’s actually a character unto itself. Some of the names and locations were difficult but that is to be expected.

Overall, I enjoyed The Girl Without Skin and give it 3 out of 5 stars. I recommend this book to all fans of the crime mystery genre. There are some gory details that may be disturbing to more sensitive readers. 

My thanks to Text Publishing Company and NetGalley for the opportunity to read an advance copy of this book. However, the opinions expressed in this review are 100% mine and mine alone.
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This is a very good Nordic mystery, but not for the faint of heart! A complicated tale of gory killings and child abuse. Takes place in Greenland and is very cold, dark, and atmospheric. Well written characters and also some interesting knowledge of Inuit culture.
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I love mysteries that take place in new to me settings.   And Greenland definitely fits that bill.   Nordbo does a fabulous job of setting the scene, so that I felt I could see everything in detail.  

Matthew Cabe is a Danish reporter assigned to Greenland after the death of his pregnant wife in a car accident.   When a mummified Norseman is found in an ice crevice, Matthew and his photographer are sent to report on it.  Overnight, the photographer’s camera and files are stolen.   And the soldier guarding the mummified body is killed and the body stolen.  Matthew’s editor has him research similar murders that happened in 1973 and he is given the diary of the policeman that investigated those murders.  

The book tells its story from the viewpoint  of both Matthew and Jakob, the original policeman.  Be prepared for gruesome scenes.  This is considered Scandinavian Noir and it is as dark as a Greenland winter.  

It’s a fast paced book and kept me in its grips for its entirety.  I had no idea how it would play out.  I’m adding Nordbo to my list of authors to read again.  

My thanks to netgalley and Text Publishing for an advance copy of this book.
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"Nordic Noir" has become an actual category of mystery/thriller.  Wikipedia has a page dedicated to the sub-genre. Although Nordbo is not yet listed among the authors mentioned, with this book it is clear (to me at least) that he is bound to be a very strong voice in the bleak landscape of horrific crimes.
Danish journalist, Matthew Cave, is sent to Greenland to research the story of a recently discovered mummified body. The expectation (and hope) is that this is a body from the Viking age of explorers. But shortly after Cave arrives a policeman who was guarding the find is brutally murdered and the mummified body is missing.
As an investigative journalist, Cave is accomplished at doing research and he soon discovers some horrifying similarities between the gutting and skinning of the policeman and a series of murders that occurred in a remote town nearby in the early 1970's.
Although Cave manages to get the notebook of a policeman who investigated the 1973 murders, but of the locals seem to be pretty unmoved despite the gruesome nature of the killings and the local police help is tepid at best.  And so reporter Matthew Cave suspects a cover-up and takes on the investigation alone. But the closer he get to discover the truth to the mummified body and the decades-old murders, the more danger he finds himself in.
I've read a few books in this "Nordic Noir" sub-genre of thriller/mystery and there is something remarkable and  ... I'll say it ... beautiful in the juxtaposition of horrible crime and stark, harsh landscape with the human drive to seek truth and retribution or closure.  This book fits so nicely into this category.  The crimes couldn't be much more terrible.  The title alone brings to mind such a dark visual that you have to know going in that this will be pretty gruesome.
But the story here unfolds so nicely and we're caught, like spectators driving past an accident, that the combination keeps us turning pages. It's a great reading experience (if you can handle the cruelty).
This is a top-notch mystery and a thrilling read.  It is highly recommended.
Looking for a good book? The Girl Without Skin by Mads Peder Nordbo is a wonderful read in the Nordic Noir sub-genre and well worth reading if you don't mind a little gruesomeness in your mystery/thriller.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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