Written by Michael Ridpath — When we first met Detective Magnus Jónsson of the Boston Police Department in Where the Shadows Lie, he was seconded to Reykjavík Violent Crimes Unit and followed the trail of a killer intent on getting hold of a previously unknown Icelandic saga. This second instalment of the Fire and Ice trilogy rejoins Magnus and the team four months later and he’s still not entirely convinced that his stay in Iceland is such a great idea. As with the first book, there are two mysteries for him to investigate; the crime that is central to the story, and another more personal leitmotif that runs through the series, and will no doubt be revealed in the final book, Meltwater.
The backdrop for 66 North is the ‘kreppa’, the Icelandic financial crisis of 2009. As the book opens a mass protest is taking place in the centre of Reykjavík. Life is uncertain for the average Icelander. Someone has got to be held accountable for the mess Iceland is now in, and the punishment could prove fatal for anyone believed to be personally responsible.
When Gabriel Ӧrn Bergsson’s body is pulled from the river, nobody suspects anything other than a guilt ridden banker’s remorseful suicide. Move forward several months and Gabriel’s Ódinsbanki boss, Óscar Gunnarsson, is dispatched at his London home. Magnus is convinced that the two cases may be linked, however his bosses are less than keen to agree with him. The situation is made even more sensitive when it seems to take a political slant following an attempt on the life of British Chancellor, Julian Lister.
Magnus’ heavy handed Boston police approach makes him unpopular. He’s a copper who tends to act on instinct, but with a case that might cause political eruptions, pushing matters with his British counterpart makes his bosses more than a little anxious. Ordered back to the police college, he must rely on colleagues Árni and Vigdís to act on his suspicions. Could the answer lie with the small group of protestors who first met as the book opened?
Magnus isn’t an overly complicated character, but his background is as much a mystery to him as it is to the reader. An Icelander by birth, he moved to the States with his father and younger brother as a child. At the end of the first book in the trilogy, he made a shocking discovery about his father, who was murdered when Magnus was 20. It’s a case that has shaped his life, but he’s about to make some more discoveries about his grandfather Hallgrímur and a deep-rooted family feud.
As with the first book in the series, 66 North is quite a meaty, satisfying read with a great modern Icelandic saga developing in the background. Ridpath has crafted Magnus’ backstory in such a way that it doesn’t overwhelm the murder investigation at the centre of the book, but he manages to capture your attention and have you on tenterhooks for the final installment.If you enjoyed Where the Shadows Lie, then this book is a must. If you’re new to the series but a fan of Nordic Noir, then you won’t be disappointed either.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars