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Flateyjargáta This is a mystery with different meanings with a couple of mysteries threading through out the whole story and the dead bodies are almost incidental to the true story which is a snapshot of small Icelandic island life during the 1960's If you're a fan of modern formula driven mysteries or hard and fast action this book will bore you to tears I enjoyed the book because I am an armchair anthropologist and I loved the hints of many different mysteries within the mystery of the occult and of the ancient mythology This is a story of a book of ancient sagas called The Flatey Book that happened to be written on the small island of Flatey which is in the 1960's of fading glory and population and which was noted in the book maybe misnamed as it just happened to be written on the island and should have been named after the fantastic poets and illustrators who made the book It is also a story of despair professional greed and national pride all centered around the Flatey Book When your roots even as a poor farmer go back to the powerful times of the Vikings how far will you go for this book that keeps this history alive? How much meaning does this ancient book have in their lives? The author painstakingly allows you to find out how each and every islander feels his or her connection to The Book it's one of the pluses of this story things unfold you aren't just TOLD how people feel You are told how the islanders feed themselves and stay alive but you are allowed to get to know them and decide for yourself how they feel about The Book It's difficult to write as it would be easy to give it all away and that would ruin the mystery part of the book though dead people are almost incidental to THE BOOK The only problem that I have with the book is that it is a little slow and I had to keep reminding myself that it's on a very small island in the 60's that the slowness just mirrors the style of life in a place where getting to the mail boat on time was the most exciting thing that happened in years But all in all I've already recommended it to friends who might like it It's worth the read and I hope to read from this author This gently paced novel has several threads interwoven like a skein of different coloured woolThe first thread is an investigation into one death then a second But are either of these deaths murder? The second thread is an evocative insight into life as it was in this remote part of Iceland in 1960 Another is excerpts from the sagas read by an as yet unidentified person Kjartan the regional magistrate's assistant is sent to the island of Flatey when a badly decomposed body is found on a remote islet Who was he and how did he get there? We gradually meet the locals some helpful some eccentric and it is this insight into the daily life of these isolated people that for me was one of the highlights of this book No one seems to have just one job the teacher works as a sealer in the summer time farmers fish part time just to make ends meet This seems to be an Icelandic tradition to this day even Viktor the author of this book has a day job as publications supervisor for the Icelandic Road Administration The characters and their motivations are gradually revealed and even though the reader cannot predict the ending there are no surprises in the resolution The characters act and speak for themselves in an authentic manner Authentic too is the social and cultural setting as it is in all good Icelandic writing that I am familiar with A slightly expanded version of this review can be found on Crime Fiction LoverThe year is 1960 Kjartan a rather green functionary from the local magistrate’s office reluctantly steps off the boat on the tiny Icelandic island of Ketilsey to file a report about a dead body found by local seal hunters Not used to field work he hopes to endure the local food and the somewhat odd but helpful inhabitants until the authorities can claim the bodyThings get complicated when Kjartan finds a mysterious message near the body Before dying of exposure the unidentified man used stones to spell out ‘lucky’ in the sand Kjartan also discovers a cryptic note in the man’s pocket which he soon learns relates to a notorious medieval manuscript called the Flatey Book which contains a riddle known to inflict a curse on anyone who attempts to solve its mysteriesReaders become familiar with this manuscript early on as it is introduced and each of its 40 riddles is treated in chapters that alternate with those describing the investigation These asides are accompanied by text from the Flatey Book’s ancient stories of the violent exploits of the Norse Kings But Ingolfsson adds yet another layer of mystery these tales are pondered by two as yet unknown readers who seek in them the key to the famous riddleWhen the body is identified as Gaston Lund a noted Danish scholar of Icelandic antiuities known to be obsessed with the Flatey enigma the investigation suddenly expands An investigator from the Reykjavik police and a charismatic reporter launch parallel investigations and political pressures from Denmark also come into play on the tiny islandNow in it for the long haul Kjartan is aided by a colourful cast of characters including Grimur the district officerseal hunter the local priest Thormodur Krakur and the alluring doctor Johanna who acts as coroner While he waits for backup he tries to make sense of the murder the book and the local culture of the island all of which seem to be very strongly linkedAlthough The Flatey Enigma at first seems to be a traditional whodunit another brutal killing two thirds into the book steers it firmly into noir territory while keeping us guessing until the end One of the main characters is killed and mutilated according to a horrific Viking tradition called the ‘blood eagle’ – straight out of the Flatey Book’s pages Google ‘blood eagle’ and you’ll see – it’s not safe for lunchWhen the big gun investigators are finally brought in from Reykjavik to grill every inhabitant of the island possible motives begin to emerge as do the true identities of the characters involved and Kjartan himself becomes one of the prime suspects While the locals are all found to have enduring connections to the book we learn that the outsiders too have links from the past and all of these factors have a bearing on the mystery of the deaths and the destiny of the manuscript The complex narrative weaves in interesting elements of national identity and political intrigueThe charm of the Flatey Enigma lies in its patient exposition of characters clever plot construction and the surprising solution to the entire set of mysteries But special mention goes to the authentic atmosphere that imbues the narrative informed by the author’s own experiences there as a child The mystery’s slow unfolding reflects the peaceful and methodical existence of the Icelandic coastal folk whom Ingolfsson vividly renders As with certain other Icelandic examples of Nordic Noir you must at times suspend your disbelief in curses elves and Norse superstitions that are remnants from the time of the Sagas Fans of murder mysteries ancient incunabula Scandinavian history not to mention anthropological bonuses like regional cuisine and survival techniues will savour the novel’s languid style local colour and even some mystical moments There really is a series of Icelandic sagas called The Flatey Book Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson has crafted an interesting mystery story about a couple of strange deaths around the Island of Flatey in Iceland's Westfjord country For once there is no super smooth investigator only several officials trying to put two and two togetherThe motivating factor is a series of enigmas penned by a saga scholar in the 19th century It seems that the victims were all connected in some way with these enigmas and their solution I have not been able to discover whether the Flatey Book actually has any enigmas related to it In the end this is a uirky tale with interesting characters who live on an isolated island which has seen better days Although the professionals from Reykjavik are finally sent for it's the amateurs who really do the lion's share of the murder investigations in The Flatey Enigma and I found following them around this remote area of western Iceland to be fascinating As villagers are interviewed as they help guide the magistrate's assistant from place to place the reader learns a lot about the customs and food of Iceland in 1960 I have to admit that I tended to skim over the menus uickly because roast puffin breast and baby seal stew just don't appeal to me but the food people eat says a lot about them and it certainly does hereI deduced the killer's identity early on but I still enjoyed following the investigation because I was learning so much about Iceland Each chapter in the book ends with information about the Flatey Book which actually exists ancient Icelandic legends that are contained within its vellum pages and finally the forty enigma uestions themselves Sometimes inclusions like these interrupt the narrative and are annoying They certainly weren't in this caseSometimes when I read a mystery what I reap is so much than solving a crime and this is what happened when I read The Flatey Enigma Yes the mystery is interesting but I feel as though I learned a great deal about the customs and the people of an area of Iceland far removed from its capital of Reykjavik This book is actually a decent story and makes for a somewhat typical mystery The Icelandic setting and reliance on a historical Icelandic Norse manuscript as a center focus adds a somewhat uniue twist but in many ways it doesn't move any further than being a Icelandic version of a Dan Brown novel a la The Davinci CodeThe story is entertaining and uick however so it isn't what I would call bad The 3 star review reflects the entertainment value The reason it is no higher is of a reflection of a less than idea translation or a bit of a simplistic writing style I suppose when you are going for the action mystery type genre the writing style has to be simplistic but I can't help but think that the real book isn't a bit better Word choice is odd at times and references from the Norse book are difficult to read; likely these are translation issuesLast the setting is something that may be a little difficult for readers I feel fortunate to have recently visited Iceland and even traveled the mail boat route referred to often in the book It really helps in placing one in the story I can see this being challenging if you don't know the setting Some care is made in putting those without knowledge of the setting into it but it could have been done better Ketilsey Island 1960Near this deserted island off the western coast of Iceland the dawning of spring brings with it new life for the local wildlife But for the decaying body discovered by three seal hunters winter is a matter of permanence After it is found to be a Danish cryptographer missing for months the ensuing investigation uncovers a mysterious link between him and a medieval manuscript known as the Book of FlateyBefore long another body is found on Flatey another tiny island off the western coast This time in the ancient Viking tradition the victim’s back has been mutilated with the so called blood eagle Kjartan the district magistrate’s representative sent to investigate the crime soon finds himself descending into the dark dangerous world of ancient legends symbology and secret societies to find the killerViktor Arnar Ingolfsson’s Glass Key–nominated Nordic mystery captures the era with visceral authenticity and the austere uiet of a world far off the beaten track Full of surprising humor complex clues and brooding intensity The Flatey Enigma is so captivating you won’t be able to put the book down until Kjartan has cracked the code This is an old fashioned cozy In fact since it takes place in 1960 I thought it might be a reprint from a book published that yearI like meandering stories with out of the norm characters And since it's set in Flatey part of Iceland I enjoyed learning about the culture and relations between Icelanders and other like countriesA Danish professor studying the Flatey Enigma an unsolved modern enigma about the Flatey Runes is found dead on a tiny island by seal hunters Later a reporter is found in a Flatey cemetery mutilated in the famous Viking Blood Eagle where lungs are ripped out to look like wings The man sent to collect the first body is a novice The second body makes him sick Finally he becomes one of the suspects himselfThrough all the stilted dialogue and meandering progressions the stories about the Flatey Runes kept me enthralledAnd when I got to the end and found out the Runes were real Made my dayFor those who like action and thrillers this won't be for you For people who enjoy watching events unfold and wondering how each piece fits into the whole pictureYou'll probably like it This one was really interesting It´s a mystery thriller taking place on a small island in Icland in the 60s To be honest if I wouldn´t have read about it being in the 60s I wouldn´t have known because the people were like I would expect them to be living on a remote island A dead man is found and soon everybody thinks the dead one is connected with an old book the book of flatey which exists in the real world In the thriller the book is connected to a riddle in 40 parts concerning the saga told in the book of flatey The story is interrupted with pieces of the saga and the riddle which corresponds to this part of the saga Sounds complicated but that´s my fault I just don´t know how to describe it But one learns uite a lot about this iclandic saga The main character is a civil servant from Icland who is sent there to report what´s happened Then the story evolves and in the end everybody is connected and nothing is as expected The language fits the island simple short sentences But nevertheless it was very good written I bought this book because it was the Kindle deal of day meaning cheap it had alright reviews and it was set in iceland a place I have never read much about I did read in the reviews that the English translation is awful which it is and that the story can be slow which it also is But aside from this I enjoyed this book Hopefully if you go in knowing it's main shortcomings it will make it easier to read and ignore or at least try the sometimes confusing syntax The descriptions of the unfamiliar landscape and the friendly characters and their interactions were the high points of the story for me I started reading the book as if I was reading a Dan Brown novel but soon noticed there were no big or small mysteries to try and decipher It is a very passive read and as soon as you stop reading it as you would other thrillers you start enjoying it a lot I was looking for a book that helped me relax and this one did the job

  • Paperback
  • 348 pages
  • Flateyjargáta
  • Viktor Arnar Ingólfsson
  • English
  • 23 October 2015
  • 9781611090970

About the Author: Viktor Arnar Ingólfsson

Viktor Arnar graduated with BSc in Civil Engineering from the Icelandic College of Engineering and Technology in 1983 In 1990 and 1995 he studied Communications Publishing and Computer Graphics at the George Washington University in Washington DC He started working for the Public Roads Administration in 1969 and has worked there full time since 1983 Since 1985 he has supervised all the insti