Author – Michael Ridpath
Published – 2010
Genre – Crime fiction
This is the first in Ridpath’s ‘Fire and Ice’ series – set in Iceland and featuring the Iceland-born detective Magnus Jonson. It seems to have been a good choice as my first book in advance of Iceland Noir.
Magnus Jonson is a bit of an outsider – although born in Iceland he has been raised by his father in the US and when the book opens he is a Detective in the Boston Police Department. Jonson has become embroiled in an internal investigation and he is sent to Iceland as a temporary way to offer him protection. He hasn’t lived in Iceland since he was 12 so he is something of an outsider and that’s certainly the way that his new colleagues in the Icelandic police force treat him. This combined with the fact that the author is English means that I found some great advantages in both Jonson’s view of Iceland as well as the way the author depicts the country. I think the perspective of the author means that he’s included details a native-born writer might perhaps take for granted, which is great for someone like me who really wants to get a feel for what Iceland, and specifically Reykjavik, is like. So now, for example, I know that Icelanders normally take their shoes off when they go inside someone’s house. You never know when this sort of information will be important!
Despite the fact that in the previous year there hadn’t been any unsolved murders in Iceland, Jonson walks right into the middle of the hunt for the murderer of a University Professor. Although he feels he is being side-lined by his new colleagues Jonson isn’t afraid to put his point of view forward (although he becomes less inclined to do this towards the end of the book) and surprisingly he is the one who can see a connection between the murder, Icelandic sagas, and The Lord of the Rings. This was another good introduction to an important feature of Icelandic culture and where the background could have slowed the pace, Ridpath managed to keep things moving along.
Jonson seems to fit the traditional mould of the troubled detective – he has had drinking problem which he doesn’t seem to have completely put behind him, he’s from a dysfunctional family and he’s been searching for his father’s killer. He is a likeable character, though, and does seem to have some positive traits – and is perhaps on the verge of starting a relationship with someone in Iceland.
Not only did this book feel like it gave me some insight into what to expect in Rekjavik, and some background on Icelandic sagas, it was also a cracking detective story. The only part that didn’t work for me were some of the scenes set in the US – especially those involving Jonson’s American girlfriend – but hopefully she is out of the picture now! I look forward to reading more about Jonson and I’m sure there will be more on the storyline involving his father’s death.
You can see another point of view over at Reactions to Reading.
Score – 4/5