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Magnus Jonson was born and spent his early years in Iceland before moving to Boston in his teens. Now a homicide detective, he has overheard a colleague’s conversation, grassed on him and fallen foul of a local drugs cartel as a result. For his own safety, and with the assistance of the FBI, Magnus is despatched to Iceland to lie low and assist their Metropolitan Police with the investigation of newer and more serious cases as Iceland’s crime demographic changes. Magnus arrives in his homeland just as the philandering academic, Professor Agnar Haraldsson is found murdered, and rumours abound of the discovery of a previously lost ancient manuscript that concerns the saga of a ring of considerable power.
What follows is a tale encompassing Magnus’s input into the Icelandic investigation and his colleagues’ reactions to him; his pressures in dealing with the aftermath at home; his reflections and new thoughts on his own father’s death; and how his immediate past catches up with him on Iceland. All make for a wonderfully tense and page turning story.
The main enjoyment in reading this novel comes from a sense of the author’s own absolute enjoyment in telling his story: it’s as if Ridpath has taken great delight in melding a few of his favourite things. Where Icelandic author Yrsa Sigurðardóttir invites you into her homeland like a kindly and personal B&B operator of the highest degree, Ridpath takes you on a journey of discovery, akin to his own, and through the eyes of the re-connecting Magnus. Thus we experience Iceland with a fresh outlook and from the foreigner’s fascinated point of view. In a further meld, an ancient saga lends itself to Tolkein’s works and the impact of contemporary internet culture. Yes, those internet-connecting Lord of the Rings obsessives are out there and available to purchase an ancient manuscript at any price. Or are they?
Where the Shadows Lie is an unusual crime novel, marrying the ancient with the contemporary in a compelling format, and is full of little lively and life-enhancing gems along the way. How do LOTR obsessives gel together when meeting in person for the first time? What do you make of a five year old Icelandic witness to a crime? If you’re an ambitious young police officer in Iceland, how far would you go to further your career? And just how much jet lag would you endure?
Where Magnus’s return to Iceland prompts him to re-consider his own father’s death, the plot draws on mirrors and reflections. But that plot is for the longer term in a series called ‘Fire and Ice’ of which 'Where the Shadows Lie' is the first…
One last point, and perhaps a reflection on the author’s background: Ridpath does so well when introducing the sad – but now recovering – Iceland economics into the mix. He is spot on with a Euro loan ballooning to threaten a business in Iceland. Here we know for sure we are in confident hands when it comes to the plot.
For an author who needed to ‘reinvent’ himself as financial thrillers were no longer selling, it’s easy to see some cynicism creep in. What’s selling now? Translated Scandinavian and Nordic crime fiction. What movie just made a load? Oh, The Lord of the Rings. But Where the Shadows Lie is not a ‘tick box’ exercise at all: on reading, it’s a testament to the author’s love and passion for his chosen setting and plot. It may not be a perfection read, but it’s engaging; draws in the reader; entertains; pays due love to the story in all its forms; and hooks you in to a series. And the darling Magnus will not be the only one you care about…
Great work from Michael Ridpath and more soon I hope.
Where the Shadows Lie was published by Corvus on 1 June 2010 in the UK.
With thanks to Corvus for the copy read and reviewed here.