Mystery review: Tími Nornarinnar (Season of the Witch) by Árni Þórarinsson (Arni Thorarinsson)

This is one of the Icelandic challenge books. It has been translated already into German, French and Danish, and I read somewhere that it is being translated into English, which is why I am reviewing it here. What the English title will be remains to be seen, but the Icelandic title translates as Season of the Witch, taking its name from the song by Donovan, which has a bearing on the plot.

Genre: Mystery
Year of publication: 2005
No. in series: 4
Series detective: Einar the journalist (I didn't see a last name - perhaps it's revealed in the earlier books)
Type of investigator: Investigative reporter
Setting & time: Northern Iceland, mostly Akureyri, contemporary.

A woman falls overboard during a rafting trip in Skagafjörður, hits her head on a rock and later dies without having gained consciousness. Her mother contacts Einar and tells him she was murdered. Einar finds this hard to believe but starts investigating anyway, more as as sop to the old lady, whom he likes, than on suspicion of finding anything suspicious. Shortly afterwards a charismatic young man disappears and Einar gets orders to write up a story about the investigation, while also covering a problem with politics and hooliganism in a village a few hour’s drive from Akureyri. His investigation leads to interesting facts about the young man, who was not all he seemed to be, and also about the dead woman’s husband. At the same time Einar finds himself embroiled in two separate family dramas with quite different outcomes.

Review: This was my first book by this author, but will not be the last. The story is told in the first person by Einar the journalist, a recovering alcoholic, warm-hearted man and hard-nosed journalist with strong ethics and an ironic sense of humour. The twists were by turns unexpected and predictable, with enough surprises and interesting events to keep me happily reading the book in one session. There is humour, tragedy, love and hatred, and in short, it’s a very satisfying read.

It was fun seeing all the different characters and for once knowing that they are, if not exactly based on, then at least meant to remind one of real people, and the same goes for places. I have lived in two of the three places where the story unfolds (the third is fictional) and know them intimately, and in fact I used to sell and participate in rafting trips like the one in which the woman dies and go to the same school as the missing boy, so that made the story very real for me.

Rating: A thrilling and funny murder mystery. Do read it when and if it comes out in English. 5 stars.

This the second Icelandic book in the Icelandic reading challenge.


WhereDunnit said…
This looks very interesting - I hope it's published in English soon!

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