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Posts Tagged ‘Lord of the Rings’

WHERE THE SHADOWS LIE by Michael Ridpath: Book Review

Iceland–a country with a lot of differences from the United States. Police do not carry guns, and there are no handguns in the country; citizens are listed in the phone directory under their first names; most sons have the last name of their father with the addition of “son”–Teddy Douglasson; most daughters are given the last name of their mother with the Icelandic addition of “daughter”–Lyla Suzannedottir (Teddy and Lyla being siblings with the same parents); women keep their original last names after marriage.

Although Magnus Jonson (his American name) knows some of these customs, he’s still feeling a bit off-kilter when he returns to the land of his birth after twenty years in the United States. Actually, Magnus Jonson isn’t even his real name.  His real name is Magnus Ragnarsson, since he was the son of Ragnar.  But the American bureaucracy couldn’t cope with this when they realized that his father’s name was Ragnar Jonsson and his mother’s name was Margret Hallgrimsdottir–his name should be one of those.  So, in desperation, Magnus took Jonson as his last name; sometimes, he thought, it’s just not worth the battle.  But upon his return to Iceland, he introduces himself as Magnus Ragnarsson, and the people he meets nod approvingly.

As the novel opens, Magnus is a police detective in Boston who is supposed to testify against three crooked colleagues in his department in a drug-related arrest.  There have been two attempts on his life, generally thought to be related to his upcoming testimony. So his supervisor tells him that, in response to a request from the Reykjavik police department for the loan of an experienced homicide detective, Magnus will be going to Iceland until the trial begins. The fact that Magnus speaks Icelandic is definitely an added bonus.  Against his will, but understanding the necessity for his transfer, Magnus leaves his adopted home and heads north.

Although crime is rare in Iceland and murder even rarer, there was a murder just days before Magnus arrived in Reykjavik.  A university professor was killed at his summer home, and investigation shows that the reason for his death points to his involvement with an ancient Icelandic saga that has been offered for sale.  The saga has been handed down from father to eldest son in a family for generations.   Now, due to the economic downturn that has hit Iceland hard, Ingileif Asgrimsdottir, the daughter of this family, has reluctantly decided to sell the saga; the professor was very interested in buying it.  Her decision brings new deaths and reopens investigations into old ones.

In addition to the saga itself, there is another very important and nearly priceless artifact involved.  The family lore is that there is a gold ring that, like the saga, has been passed down from generation to generation, a ring that has unequaled power.  It is similar to the gold ring in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and there is correspondence from the author of those books, J. R. R. Tolkien, to an ancestor of Ingileif’s.   Her father fell to his death searching for the ring, and she wants no part of it.  But it seems as if someone else does.

The plot and characters in this novel are outstanding, and the unusual locale simply adds to the pleasure of reading this book.

Where the Shadows Lie is the first of Michael Ridpath’s Icelandic crime novels.  Although it was published in 2010, I just discovered it this month.  His second in the “Fire and Ice” series was published as 66 Degrees abroad but may be found under the title Far North in the United States.

You can read more about Michael Ridpath at his web page.