Page Count 400
Publication date April 2022
Publisher Michael Joseph, Penguin
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 . . .
We open on a prologue- The hunting party make a shocking discovery inside a refuge whilst lost in an Icelandic blizzard- before Jonasson takes us back to the beginning.
Readers have to conquer a quarter of the book before learning what’s inside that hut that scared the characters so badly which, for me, was far too much build up for very little pay off. Perhaps because I’m a fan of dark fiction and read a lot of horror, the reveal was really disappointing. Interesting and more than a little confusing, but not in sync with the character reactions at all.
Fortunately the tension continues regardless; buoyed by the risk of death from exposure to the blizzard.
Outside is written in third-person from the POV of four ‘friends’. I found none of these characters likeable. Their plentiful flaws are a main focus of a story that switches between past and present timelines for each person.
Every chapter ends with a cliffhanger, I came to find this tedious rather than intriguing due to my initial disappointment and lack of investment in the characters.
I was irritated with minor events being catastrophised by overblown character reactions, nevertheless I pressed on in hope of a turning point.
Side note; Ptarmigan (grouse) are mentioned so often I had to pause and look up the image and phonetic spelling as I kept stumbling over it. For those like me who have no clue its ‘ta-muh-gun’ by the way, we do have them in the UK so there really was no excusing my ignorance- whoops!
The synopsis for Outside sounded fantastic but may have set my expectations too high. This was my first Jonasson read and quite likely my last.
I should note I read Outside in English translated from its original Icelandic so it’s certainly possible the translator over egged the cake let’s say.
There are a few twists to be found before a pretty irritating ending that I know some readers will love but alas, this was not for me.