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Customer Review

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Icelandic chiller, 29 Nov. 2012
This review is from: House of Evidence (Paperback)
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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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