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Terrific police procedural uncovering deep family mysteries
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.