Rural pastor Baldur Skuggason hunts a fox for its pelt, which he will sell to supplement his meager income. The herbalist Fridrik B. Fridjonsson is completing a hoax on Baldur that has allowed him, Herb-Fridrik, to bury his longtime assistant, who had Down syndrome, with more reverence than the grumpy, prejudiced minister ever could show. A flashback showing how Herb-Fridrik met his helper completes the action of this short novel by poet and pop-music lyricist (most famously for Iceland’s international star, Bjork) Sjon.
The tale is tinged by metamorphoses, however, of animal into human and vice versa, and it is written primarily in the spare, concrete diction of nature poetry indeed, its opening section looks like a sequence of prose poems. Leavened by dry rural humor in the characters’ speech and thoughts, it is magnetically readable.” – Booklist
Last Rituals : an Icelandic novel of secret symbols, medieval witchcraft, and modern murder (M)
by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir ; translated from the Icelandic by Bernard Scudder.
“A new Icelandic mystery invites comparison with Arnaldur Indridason’s crime fiction (Voices), but this title bears little resemblance. Thora is a thirtysomething divorcee, mother of two, and a partner in a small law firm. She is reluctantly drawn into a murder investigation when approached by the Guntlieb family, whose son, Harald, was killed at the university.
|Photo: Atli Mar Hafsteinsson|
With the pay at twice her usual rate and the assistance of Matthew Reich, the Guntlieb family representative, Thora can’t refuse, even though the gruesome murder appalls her. To find the murderer, Thora and Matthew must delve into Harald’s interests in witchcraft and witch burnings and investigate his university friends. Scudder provides such a smooth translation, right down to the slang used by Harald’s college friends, that an engaged reader can easily forget this was originally written in Icelandic. Featuring two fleshed-out, involving lead characters and unusual witchcraft details, this is recommended for all public libraries, and readers’ advisors can suggest this title to patrons who enjoy Scandinavian mysteries by Helene Tursten and Asa Larsson.” – Library Journal
“Readers craving the bleak atmosphere, strong sense of place, and spare delivery that often define fiction from the northern climes, such as that of Larsson and Mankell, are in for a treat with this angst-fueled Icelandic mystery. Jacob Kieler Jr. dies from a gunshot wound to the chest in the same room where his father was shot more than 30 years earlier. No killer and no weapon were found in the first death, and the same gun was used in both cases.
Johann Palsson and his team of variously troubled detectives learn that Jacob Sr. spent his entire life trying to build a railroad across Iceland, as he relates in his diaries, and his son’s life was focused on keeping the family home exactly as it was in his childhood. They make poor candidates for murder. As the investigation proceeds, clues are few and disparate, and there is an overall sense of approaching doom. Prepare for a zinger.” – Booklist
“Following the death of his mother, whose beloved greenhouse was home to rare roses, 22-year-old Lobbi leaves his elderly father and autistic twin brother behind in his native Iceland to take a job restoring a medieval rose garden at a European monastery. He is also leaving behind Flora Sol, his infant daughter, the result of a meaningless one-night-stand with Anna, a young woman determined to pursue her university degree in spite of her single motherhood.
Arriving at the monastery after a tempestuous journey that involves unexpected surgery and an otherworldly drive through mystical forests, Lobbi adjusts to his new life, where he engages in self-contemplation with the help of a monk who is most comfortable giving advice through the viewing of movies. When Anna and Flora Sol suddenly appear, Lobbi is finally able to appreciate what it means to be a father and son, friend and tender of souls, both human and floral. Buoyed by FitzGibbon’s luminous translation, Olafsdottir’s internationally award-winning tale is a melancholy yet moving portrait of a young man struggling to make sense of unconventional relationships and responsibilities.” – Booklist