Season of the Witch
(Tími nornarinnar, 2005)
Árni Þórarinsson’s books about seasoned crime correspondent Einar, a newshound fossil with a nose for trouble, are a part of the new wave of post-millennium Icelandic crime fiction. As such, Árni’s writing offers an interesting look at the form before it settled into the familiar shape that we know today as one of the largest genres on the Icelandic publishing market.
Here, Einar – recovering alcoholic, fulltime cynic – has accepted an offer from his higher-ups at The Afternoon News to relocate to the town of Akureyri to help establish the paper’s fledgling northern branch. Used to walking the crime beat in the nation’s capital, he doesn’t expect much from his new role – except maybe a chance to make a new start and stay off the booze. Even so, he finds himself thwarted by his superiors when he tries to pursue leads about the town’s hidden blemishes and is told to stick to fluffy human-interest stories. Still, he is on the scene, with his photographer Jóa in tow, when a young woman drowns during a rafting expedition. Somehow, Einar finds himself making a half-hearted promise to the woman’s mother to look into the accident, as she is certain that something is amiss with her daughter’s death. But when a high school student goes missing, the lead in a local theatre production of an old Icelandic folktale about sorcery and murder, Einar starts to suspect that something is not as it seems in the sleepy northern town.
The charm of this novel is Einar’s weary-yet-humorous first-person narration, which is more akin to old school gumshoes like Philip Marlowe and Archie Goodwin than the Nordic Noir broodings of Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salamander.