Murder in Iceland

March 14, 2012

I recently finished The Flatey Enigma, by Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson. It was a free lend through the Amazon Prime Kindle Library, so it was an easy investment. This was quite different from the other Scandinavian mysteries I’ve been reading. Firstly, because it is set in 1960, not the present. Although that may throw some people off, I think it was done to highlight the isolation and insulation of the people living on these small Icelandic islands. One of the characters hadn’t been off the island in over fifty years. There was only one phone–only a few people had a bathtub. While it may be still true today, I don’t think it would have the same impact with the advanced technology we expect. And because the culture was slower, so was the story–but not in a bad way. There is a relaxedness about solving the mystery that wouldn’t happen with a modern, big city setting. Add to that the fact that there is no flashy CSI-tech to solve the murder, and the result is a pretty good story.

The other element that made it different and fun for me, as a medievalist, was that the main story was interwoven with sections of The Flatey Book, a manuscript of saga tales–and a real one at that. And there is a reason for the two story threads, although that isn’t obvious until later in the story.

I have to admit I was a bit doubtful at first, but I enjoyed it.

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Kim Harrison

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