Repeat after me…
🙂 🙂 😐
A man is found brutally killed outside a house he was building. Although the case is being run from the police office in Akureyri, the victim, Elías, had also been working on the new road tunnel being built in Siglufjörður , so the local police are asked to help. Unfortunately since it’s a tiny place there are only three police officers there, and each of them is far more concerned with his personal life than dealing with pesky crimes. Fortunately there’s a news reporter also on the trail, and although she has more than her fair share of personal issues too, she at least seems keen to actually do her job.
The basic plot of the book is quite interesting and the last third is comparatively fast-paced as all the different strands finally come together so that we learn why Elías was killed and get to the resolutions of some of the myriad of personal problems swilling around. For that reason, the book has escaped the one-star review that it had been heading directly towards up until that stage. But, oh dear, it’s been a long time since I read something so hopelessly repetitive as this – was there any kind of edit done on it? The number of typos and missing words in the Kindle version certainly suggest the publisher saved a bit of money on proof-reading.
By repetitive, I don’t mean that the author goes over the same things in different ways to show different aspects – done well, that can be interesting. No, in this case it’s actual repetition of the same thoughts, again and again, expressed in almost identical ways each time, and all having nothing to do with the actual case. We hear over and over about how Hlynur was a bully in his childhood and now feels guilty about it. Ari Thór still hasn’t got over his break-up with Kristín, despite two years having passed – but then again Kristín, whose thoughts on the subject we also hear repeatedly, hasn’t got over it either. The third police officer hasn’t got over the fact that his wife has left him to live in the big city. The journalist hasn’t got over something that we keep getting hints about but which isn’t revealed till very late on. Dear me, what a miserable, self-pitying, self-absorbed bunch of people to spend time with!
Then there’s the ash. The book is set just after the unpronounceable (and unspellable) volcano erupted back in, I think, 2010, and we are told innumerable times that Reykjavik is still being affected by ash in the air, while Siglufjörður is not. Once is enough. Or describe it differently each time. But to simply keep repeating it is more than tiresome.
Anyway, as I said(!), on the rare occasions that the plot appears, it’s quite interesting. Elías appears to have two different reputations depending on who you talk to. Some think he’s a good man, who spends his spare time working for a charity that helps people affected by the economic crash. Others hint that he’s got a dark side, dabbling in crime and with a cruel streak. Yet others know exactly what he’s been doing, but can’t share that knowledge with the police for fear of incriminating themselves. In the brief moments that the police and the journalist can spare from their personal problems, they manage to piece together Elías’ true character and find the reason for his murder. There is also a linked strand that leads to a kind of thriller ending – a race against time to save a life – and this is done reasonably well, although still interrupted by all the personal problems reaching their climaxes at the same time.
I have loved some Jónasson books in the past, and I honestly don’t know if it’s that I’ve become more critical of the kind of filler employed by contemporary crime writers and their concentration on their protagonists’ angst rather than the mystery at hand, or if indeed this book simply isn’t up to the standard of his others. Probably a combination of both. Either way, I’d find it hard to recommend this one. I made it to the end but only by dint of exerting every ounce of willpower I possess…
This was The People’s Choice winner for October. You win some, you lose some… 😉