On a cold January morning in 1973, inside a stately old house in Reykjavik, blood pools around Jacob Kieler Junior from a fatal gunshot wound to his chest. Detective Jóhann Pálsson, an expert in the emerging field of forensics, is called to the scene and soon discovers something more unsettling than the murder itself: the deceased’s father, Jacob Kieler Senior, a railroad engineer, was shot to death in the same living room nearly thirty years earlier. The case was officially closed as a botched robbery.
Pálsson soon uncovers diaries that portray Kieler Senior as an ambitious man dedicated to bringing the railroad to Iceland no matter the cost. Sensing a deeper and darker mystery afoot, the detective and his colleagues piece together through the elder Kieler’s diaries a family history rich with deceit…
I love books with an element of recent history and those with a diary to read are even better! This book has a diary, Iceland (I’ve never read a book set in Iceland before), World War II and family secrets which is why it caught my eye.
When the police turn up at a house in Iceland they find the body of Jacob Kieler Junior on the floor having been shot. The only thing that appears to be out of place is a single chair. Detective Jóhann Pálsson soon discovers that Jacob Kieler the father of the deceased was found in remarkably similar circumstances in 1946 nearly 30 years previously. The police try desperately to work out the link between the two deaths with the help of Jacob’s (the father) diaries which span from 1910 to 1946.
I love stories with diaries and this one is well managed, the reader often knows what to look out for in the brief diary entries following revelations in the present (well 1973 but present as far as the book is concerned). Jacob trains to be an engineer and has a life goal to build a railway in Iceland. This may sound a bit dry, but despite not being a train-spotter of any description, the explanations of various problems with the railway were easy to follow and quite informative without overpowering the mystery of who shot the two men.
The policemen although leading the search aren’t particularly strong character-wise apart from the female detective Hrefna who is in charge of reading the diaries. There is also an incompetent one Egill, who has a penchant for dealing roughly with his suspects. It is the mystery that carries this story along especially the bit that spans World War II with interesting political and social opinions from an Icelandic perspective. An interesting book that had me intrigued throughout it’s 460 pages.
I received this book from Amazon Vine as it was one of their amazon crossing books from December last year. The translation is good, not too clumsy which is good as this can be quite a dense book in parts.
- Iceland Ninth Happiest Nation (icelandreview.com)