9 June 2012

Review: THE FLATEY ENIGMA, Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 823 KB
  • Print Length: 349 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1611090970
  • Publisher: AmazonCrossing (February 21, 2012)
  • Translated from Icelandic by Brian Fitzgibbon.
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005O3CL50
  • Source: I bought it
Synopsis (Amazon)

Near a deserted island off the western coast of Iceland in 1960, the dawning of spring brings new life for the local wildlife. But for the body discovered by three seal hunters, winter is a matter of permanence. After it is found to be a missing Danish cryptographer, the ensuing investigation uncovers a mysterious link between the researcher and a medieval manuscript known as The Book of Flatey.

Before long another body is found on the tiny island. This time, in the ancient Viking tradition, the victim’s back has been mutilated with the so-called blood eagle. Kjartan, the district magistrate’s representative sent to investigate the crime, soon finds himself descending into a dark, dangerous world of ancient legends, symbolism, and secret societies to find a killer.

Nominated for the prestigious Glass Key award for Nordic crime fiction, The Flatey Enigma will keep you guessing until Kjartan has cracked the code.

My take

This is a novel set on two levels - the primary level the investigation into the death of a body found on a remote Icelandic island. The nearest "big" island is Flatey and it appears the body has been dead for some time. So it is not a case of real urgency for the Reijkavik Police Department and so they've assigned Kjartan, who has just started working for the district magistrate in a clerical capacity. Kjartan has to determine who the dead man is and how he died. While he does that he will stay with Grimur, the administrative officer for the district of Flatey.

The Book of Flatey is a compilation of various medieval Icelandic sagas. The second level of the story is the Flatey Enigma, a set of 40 questions that have puzzled  those studying the Book of Flatey for over 30 years. Those attempting to solve the enigma are meant to answer the questions in library on the island of Flatey using the copy of the manuscript there. They are not meant to take anything away for future reference. The 40 questions appear, with possible solutions, throughout the novel, as a conversation between two of the characters.

THE FLATEY ENIGMA is set in June 1960 and provides fascinating descriptions of Icelandic remote island life at that time.

Kjartan the investigator has a past he is trying to hide. The island doctor Johanna and her father who is dying of cancer also have hidden pasts. The island of Flatey certainly has its share of strange, even inbred people, one at least who has never left the island, and one who has dreams and sees "little people".

So this novel is crime fiction with a difference, a very Icelandic flavour. The  extracts from the sagas in the Book of Flatey are gruesome to say the least. There are connections between various characters that are unexpected, even though at least two of them come from Denmark.

THE FLATEY ENIGMA was nominated for the Glass Key given by the Crime Writers of Scandinavia in 2004. It was published in English by Amazaon crossing in 2012.

My rating: 4.5
About the author

Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson was born in Akureyri in the north of Iceland on April 12, 1955. He finished his B.Sc.degree in civil engineering from The Icelandic College of Engineering and Technology (ICET), in 1983. He has taken courses in script writing run by the Icelandic Film Producers and at the Institute for Continuing Education at the University of Iceland. In 1990 and again in 1995 Ingolfsson attended classes in Public Relations at the George Washington University in Washington DC. Ingolfsson started working for the Icelandic Road Administration during his summer vacations from school 1969, and has worked there full time since 1983. Since 1985 he has supervised the institution's publications and contributed to Public Relations.
Viktor Arnar has published six mysteries, the fifth of which, "Daybreak" in 2005, was the basis for the Icelandic TV series "Hunting Men," which premiered in 2008. His short stories have appeared in magazines and collections. His third novel, "Engin Spor" ("No Trace"), was nominated for the Glass Key prize, an award given by the Crime Writers Association of Scandinavia, in 2001, and "Flateyjarg√°ta" ("The Flatey Enigma") was nominated for the same prize in 2004.


Anonymous said...

Kerrie - Oh, thanks for reminding me of this one. I've read several positive reviews of it and must get to it. Soon. Especially as it's an historical mystery and that always appeals to me.

Sarah said...

I enjoyed this book too Kerrie and it made me want to visit the island although I can live without the food.

Susan Joseph said...

Thanks: I will download this immediately!


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