Author: Michael Ridpath, 2010.
Genre: Crime Fiction. Nordic Noir. Myth and Legend
Other Details: Paperback. 416 pages.
Magnus Jonson was born in Iceland though had been brought to the USA by his father at the age of twelve. Twenty-one years later he is a Sergeant Detective with the Boston Police Department Homicide Department. He is also the chief witness at an upcoming trial and a bounty has been placed on his head. After two failed attempts on his life, Magnus is being considered for the Witness Protection Programme. However, when his superior learns that the Icelandic Commissioner for Police has requested the loan of a US detective to advise their own police force upon violent crimes, he volunteers Magnus for the assignment. Even with his memories and a rusty grasp of Icelandic, Magnus still feels very much an outsider when he returns to the country of his birth.
He soon becomes involved in a murder case involving a respected Professor of Icelandic. There are rumours circulating that the Professor had possession of manuscript of a long-lost Icelandic saga featuring a magic ring with terrible powers. There are also intriguing ties between the saga and the work of Professor J.R R.Tolkien suggesting it may have been one of his sources of inspiration. Could the manuscript prove a motive for murder or did one of the Professor's infidelities inspire a crime of passion? There are plenty of twists and turns, more deaths, numerous suspects and the odd red herring thrown into the mix before the case is resolved.
After success as a writer of financial thrillers, Ridpath decided to make the switch to crime fiction. Given a long time interest in Iceland and its rich culture (and likely a keen eye on the current trend for Scandinavian crime fiction), he has embarked on this series. That he has a love for the myths and legends of Iceland is quite clear and he integrates these into the story as well as plenty of information about modern day Iceland.
Magnus is a well rounded protagonist, a little brash and over-confident at times yet honest and committed to his job. He is also still haunted by the unsolved murder of his father while he was at university. This murder as well as the case back in Boston come into play along with Magnus rediscovering his sense of connection with his homeland and its peoples. This latter aspect I felt was very well handled.
This was an intelligent, tightly written crime thriller with engaging characters and a magnificent setting. The links to Tolkien featured on the back blurb had provided the initial attraction for me to pick up the novel though I certainly enjoyed it very much and plan to continue with the series.
Michael Ridpath's page on 'Where the Shadows Lie' with further link to his background/research.