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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on 14 December 2012
Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson's first AmazonCrossing title, The Flatey Enigma, was great fun if a rather implausible whodunit. This second one, House of Evidence, was originally published in Icelandic 4 years earlier (in 1998) than The Flatey Enigma, but is a much better book in all respects. Its scenario is fascinating - the progress of an Icelandic family against the background of Iceland and the world's 20th Century history, its plotting really assured, and its locus - an old house whose secrets, when unlocked, will surely explain the mystery - beautifully imagined.

The story is set in 1973, 25 years before the book's original publication. This may at first seem odd, but is necessary to fit it to the historical events that in part shape the plot - and by giving it some historic distance, add to the general atmosphere. Historian Jacob Keiler is found shot dead at his house in Reykjavík, a house built by his grandfather, a successful merchant, back in 1910, and which Jacob, a bachelor, has turned into something of a museum for his father, also Jacob. His father was an engineer whose unrealised life's ambition was to bring the railway to Iceland. As the police investigation - carried out by quite a large team, each of whom is nicely delineated - begins, something really strange energes: Jacob senior was shot dead in the very same room nearly 30 years earlier. Don't worry about this being a spoiler, since it's on the back cover and is merely the foundation for the development of the plot. To say much more, other than that there are plenty of the expected red herrings, would however definitely count as spoilers, so I won't, except to say that the unfolding of the plot is beautifully timed, its outcome uncertain until the very end, by which time you have been carried along so well it's a real wrench it all has to finish.

It's a lovely one for railway buffs as well as the rest of us, by the way, because the railway that never was is central to the story.

It's a splendid story and well worth reading either as an e-book or nice sturdy paperback.

A third Ingolfsson title is due in 2013 from AmazonCrossing: let's hope it as good as this one.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 29 November 2012
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I did find this novel a bit hard to get into, but it definitely grew on me and I was soon immersed in this story of a family, originally Danish but settled in Iceland for some generations. A man, Jacob Keiller Jnr., is found shot dead, apparently murdered, in a house that is a kind of museum, kept as the father of the victim, who had been passionately keen to build a railway in Iceland, had left it when he, nearly thirty years before, had been killed in a similar way and the case never solved.
The 'present day' narrative is set in 1973, but the story has its origins in 1910, when young Jacob Keiller (Snr) is presented with a diary by his father and encouraged to use it. He does so until his shocking death in 1945, though some of the later volumes are hidden away and only emerge as the story progresses. Passages from this diary are reproduced at the end of each of the chapters. This 'first' Jacob Keiller spent his life attempting to build a railway in Iceland, becoming so obsessive that he flirted with Nazism to get money for his project and even endorsed the introduction of a monarchy into Iceland to forward his plans. These came to nothing and he died a deeply disappointed man suffering from depression. Of his sons, Matthias became a celebrated cello performer and Jacob went into banking but his main interest was his family history, particularly that of his father and he became reclusive. leaving many secrets to be discovered.
Tension builds up as the police attempt to discover a motive and suspects for the crime. The police are an interesting bunch, not all of them admirable. but they find it hard to make headway.
In fact it was not that hard to guess what had happened, but why was quite another matter. Very tragic stories are drawn into the equation and when the police do discover the truth it is not one to celebrate.
This is definitely a literary mystery rather than a police procedural, and it is a good one and often fascinating. None of the well drawn characters are based on fact and Jacob Snr's railway plans never existed, but I read it as if they did. It is a complex book but one to be cherished, and I'd be interested to read more by this author. It was originally published in 1998 but not translated into English until now.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
House of Evidence isn't the first in this series of Icelandic police procedurals, but you don't need to have read its predecessor, The Flatey Enigma, to thoroughly enjoy this engaging combination of Scandinavian mystery and history (if it's acceptable to clump Iceland in with the Nordic countries, of course...)

The main action is set investigating a murder in 1973, which in itself is interesting because it neatly avoids all the modern CSI and technological tricks of current detective tales. Instead the Icelandic police team rely on old-fashioned forensics and interviews, and painstaking research into an earlier murder in very similar circumstances, which took place at the end of WW2. Two or even three different narratives are skilfully interwoven here; the police team following leads; the diary of a long-dead engineer who tried but failed to bring the railways to Iceland, and a complicated multi-generational family history which sheds snow-bright light on the more recent events of Icelandic history.
All that sounds quite stodgy, and indeed HoE is not your typical thriller - there's little menace or rapid-fire action, and it's a long way from typical Nordic noir, full of looming night, stifled snowfalls, repressed individuals and extreme isolation. But it is extremely entertaining, with a genuinely plausible mystery at its heart and a steady, compelling pace which meant I read it in a couple of sittings, eagerly whistling through the accessible narrative. HoE won't win awards for sparse, stark examination of the human soul but it's a damn good story with a solid historical backdrop, and the police team caught my interest to the extent that I'll go read the earlier book by Ingolfsson too. Unusually, none of the investigators takes the limelight for long - the narrative is what drives the story along rather than the viewpoint of a single investigator, so the protagonist is, in many ways, the murder victim, around whom the plot revolves.

So; fascinating if you'd like to learn a little about Icelandic history, but a rewarding read in its own right, too.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 25 January 2013
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have to agree with most of the other 3* reviewers for House of Evidence. Starts well. For the first 100+ pages I was enthralled by the novel. I'm a fan of railway history and that helped because a key feature of the plot concerns the potentional building of a railway in Iceland. I enjoyed following the history of the Keiller family as the narrative dips in and out of a period spanning 1910 to 1970. They've experienced murder, depression, obsession and even flirted with Nazism in an attempt to fulfill their railway dream. It's powerful stuff. Even the concept of turning a family home into a shrine for a murder victim gives a Gothic edge. There's a lot of darkness running nicely alongside some of the most intricate police procedure and forensic detail I've read.

Unfortunately, about half way in, House of Evidence loses itself. The constant dependency on reading diary entries to move the plot forward becomes monotonous. They stop adding anything to the plot and become almost rambling. I have a nasty feeling they've been added to pad out the book and bring it to the proper word count for publication but; my absolute disappointment would certainly be how easy it was to guess the ending.

What could have been an exceptional crime/thriller/forensic novel becomes an odd mystery based on no more than charting the history of a deranged family and a non-existent railway. Sorry. Disappointed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This book started at a very slow pace, but into the second chapter, this became a difficult book to put down. Written from an entirely different perspective, we become part of the story as it moves along. The story moves from Denmark to Iceland within two generations.

This s a story of father and son, Jacob Kieler, known as Jacob Sr and Jacob Jr. Both of their stories alternate between two time periods, the 1973 investigation of a death and the 1910 story of Jacob Sr, as told by his diaries. This is not a type of writing that I usually enjoy, but, in this book, it seems essential. The diaries are usually printed in the last of each chapter. Jacob Sr was a railroad engineer hoping to bring the railroad to Iceland. He received his degree in Germany and at times used nefarious dealings with Hitler and his minions to move the railroad along. As the book opens Jacob Jr is found dying. The Reykjavik police department become involved. The team of detectives, most of them extremely good at their job, while one stands out as a monster of cruelty. The lead, Halldo, moves the investigation along. They meet members of the family and as one story is told in the form of Jacob Sr diaries, more information emerges with the assistance of two extraordinary detectives. This is a story of generations and how families cope with their miseries and their grief.

The author, Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson, has a way of incorporating this intricate plot with the hidden depressions/repressions and emotions of the day. I found his writing precise and descriptive, I could feature in my mind's eye the house at the center of the family. This is truly an exceptional book and I am now going to read the author's other books.

Recommended. prisrob 04-10-13
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 21 December 2012
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The concept of this book really did appeal to me. Father and son found shot in the same room of the same house nearly 30 years apart. The book takes a two part approach to telling the story with the police investigations into the later crime being mixed with extracts from the diaries of the father.

In practice I loved the last 50-100 pages of this book. The stories really came to life then and they were good stories reasonably well told. However I cannot say I really enjoyed the earlier part of the book. I think the translation was rather odd at times. Apparently translated for the American market the translators actually live in England - some spelling/phrasing seemed American however some was not. Far more importantly the pace of the book was frankly quite slow. While set in the 1970s the book felt even more dated than that in the investigation of the more recent murder. I also felt that the characters remained rather one dimensional - some even to the end. I do think this is a pity as the underlying story is very good. Not a bad book however it didn't grip me until the end sadly.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
"House of Evidence" is the third Scandinavian mystery/police procedural by the Icelandic author Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson. It, like his previous The Flatey Enigma, was nominated for the Glass Key Award, given by the Crime Writers Association of Scandinavia. It has now been newly translated from the Icelandic into English by Bjorg Arnadottir and Andrew Cauthery. It is, like its author, located in Reykjavik, capital of that sparsely populated, extreme northern country.

The book opens at Birkihlid, stately family home of the prominent Kieler family, on a cold January morning in 1973. Jacob Kieler Junior is found dead in the parlor, having bled to death from a fatal gunshot wound in his chest. Police forensics expert Detective Johann Palsson is first at the scene. Before long, he discovers that the father of the deceased, Jacob Kieler Senior, railway engineer, was shot to death in the same living room nearly thirty years before in 1945. That killing had never been solved, but had merely been closed as a botched robbery attempt. And the two men, father and son, were killed in roughly the same place in the room.

The police soon find the elder Kieler's voluminous diaries, covering more than 35 years, and charge one of their number with reading them. The story then alternates between the earlier 20th century of Jacob Senior's diaries and the 1973 investigation. The diaries disclose that the elder Kieler was an ambitious man, driven to bring the railroad to his country. He also appears to have flirted with monarchism, as he went to Germany in the 1930s to seek an aristocrat willing to be king of Iceland. And, if some Americans were called premature anti-fascists in the McCarthyite 1950s, for having taken up opposition to the German Nazi party too soon, particularly during the Spanish Civil War, then the elder Kieler might well be called to task for having supported the Nazi party too long, too late, being blind to its ambitions until the actual shooting of World War II began.

Unfortunately, I found the book's numerous "diary" excerpts merely served to hobble its progress, and thought such information as they contained might have been transmitted much more quickly in simple narrative. I did, however, find Ingolfsson to be a capable writer otherwise, nothing wrong with his narrative and descriptive writing or his dialog, and I was interested in his descriptions of the geography, weather, flora, fauna, language and social byways of his country, about which I know virtually nothing. And the author did find his way to a shattering, gruesome secret, the likes of which I've never heard of or read about, that led inevitably to the book's conclusion, and surely justifies its inclusion in the Scandinavian mystery category. Which, from my readings in that category, such as that international publishing phenomenon, Stieg Larsson Collection 3 Book Set Pack Millennium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest, The Girl Who Played with Fire), do run to the grisly. It you enjoyed the MILLENIUM TRILOGY, then you may enjoy HOUSE OF EVIDENCE.
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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, although 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 opinions from an Icelandic perspective. An interesting book that had me intrigued throughout it's 460 pages.
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VINE VOICEon 7 August 2013
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
House of Evidence is a tale of two deaths in the same family almost three decades apart. The two deaths occur in the same house in almost identical circumstances. Are the deaths connected? If so, how?

What follows the death of Jacob Kieler is an investigation into a family living with obsessions, from Jacob the elder's obsession with the Icelandic railways to Jacob the younger's obsession with his family and maintaining the house.

The story crosses Europe and most of the 20th C.; the two Jacob's lives intertwined with obsession as the thread. What results is an interesting story of life in Iceland through the periods covered rather than a good old murder mystery. I enjoyed the book but found it to be hard going at times. The book is well written and researched and the translation to English works well. I just found the depth of technical information provided regarding the engineering to be a quagmire that bogged the story down. I get that an engineer would record a lot of this information in his journals (which are used to tell Jacob Sr. Story) but do we need so much of it repeating to see how the man's mind worked? Do I need to know that the Mauretania weighs 31,938 tons and is 232 meters in length? I think not! The story also has a lot of historical fact that adds to the mood of the novel but sometimes this reads as a textbook on Iceland rather than a novel.

The book brings the family through to the current death but the police investigation is almost an after thought. The solution to the deaths will come as no surprise to anyone who knows their crime fiction well as the story has been done many times over the years including Conan Doyle and even CSI.

That said it is a good read and well written if it wasn't for the factual overload.
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On a cold January morning in 1973( is there ever any other kind in the Northern hemisphere ?), inside a foreboding old house in Reykjavik, Jacob Kieler Junior lies dying 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 disconcerting than the murder itself. The deceased's father, Jacob Kieler Senior, a railroad engineer, was coincidentally shot to death in the same living room nearly thirty years earlier. The case was officially closed as a bungled robbery.
Pálsson rapidly uncovers diaries that portray Kieler Senior as an ambitious man dedicated to bringing the railroad to Iceland no matter the cost. Sensing a suspicious murkier mystery , the detective and his colleagues piece together .through the elder Kieler's diaries a family history rich with mendacity and deception.
Riding in somewhat on the coat-tails of the Nordic noir explosion House of Evidence none the less is an initially effective if rather tortuous read that starts off well but becomes flimsier and less enthralling as the narrative progresses.
If I may compare to a railway journey , as befit's a central plot point this is one where you are originally fascinated by the landscapes passing by but after a while realise that you are in fact looking at the same scene over and over again. Like the background in a Scooby Doo chase scene. Then all you want to do is find something else to divert your attention and pass the time. This book would in all likelihood not be on the preferred list.
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