Season of the Witch – Árni Þórarinsson

season of the witchTitle – Season of the Witch

Author – Árni Þórarinsson  (translated by Anna Yates)

Published – 2005 (2012 in translation)

Genre – Crime fiction

We met Arni Thorarinsson when we attended Iceland Noir in 2013 and I’ve managed to get to his book before we head back again later this month. He is an experienced Icelandic journalist and has published a number of screenplays and crime novels – this novel was nominated for the Icelandic Literature Prize and I believe it’s the only one currently available in English.

The story is told in the first person by Einar, a journalist (specifically a crime reporter) who has recently been transferred from Reykjavik to the small town of Akureyi.  His transfer is the result of a change in management at the newspaper and due to some personal issues he seems to have had with alcohol. In fact this novel is the fourth in the series featuring Einar so Icelandic readers probably have a better idea of the background than those of us reading only this title. Einar is pretty disgruntled at the move, not only is he missing the more exciting buzz of the capital city, he’s also missing his daughter who has stayed behind and this is compounded by the fact that he doesn’t get on with the only other permanent employee at the Akureyi office.

As the lone reporter Einar is required to cover all sorts of stories and these include the death of a woman on a rafting trip, a local school production of an Icelandic folktale and a missing dog. However, he can’t put his investigative skills behind him and he soon becomes involved in a police investigation when the leading actor from the play disappears. Assisted by Jóa, the photographer temporarily assigned to the paper, he pursues the stories to the bitter end.

The book offers much of what you would expect from Nordic fiction. There’s a thread that deals with local politics and the subject of immigration, one that I think most people will recognise wherever they live. There’s a sprinkling of folklore as well as more contemporary issues like drugs.  Thorarinsson gives you a feel for the country and its people without spending a lot of time on long descriptive passages. It has a steady pace and a likeable lead character, a few twists and turns and the odd humorous moment to lighten the mood.

I try not to look at other reviews of books before I write mine, but when I updated Goodreads I couldn’t help but notice that it has a fairly low rating and I really can’t see why. Personally I hope more titles are translated.

You can see another review on the Petrona blog.

1star1star1star1star

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3 comments

  1. I wish I’d reviewed this one. I read it last year but never got around to reviewing it which means I can barely remember it (my ailing brain’s fault not the author’s). I do remember enjoying it – there’s a very good sense of the town and its various undercurrents – like towns that aren’t big, flashy, capital cities everywhere I guess. I was annoyed that it was translated out of order – there did seem to be some information we were missing – but again that’s not the author’s fault

    1. Ha! I sometimes can’t even remember the book I’m currently reading.
      I am a big fan of reading books in order, it’s not often that series get translated in order which I think does the authors a disservice.

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