This is said to be a classic of Norwegian crime literature, written in 1909.
Thankfully, it is short. It is probably outdated, in that the genre may not have been fully settled in its form at the time this book was written.
The real mystery is not so much the identity of the killer – I had worked that out about a third of the way through – but what exactly is the Iron Chariot of the title. This is a machine whose rumblings and clankings presage a death. In order to reveal the answer to that mystery, the detective had to flourish a couple of pieces of information that the author had not shared with us earlier.
I found it slow and less than gripping. It proceeds to a large extent as a dialogue between the unnamed narrator and the detective. The detective uses his powers of deduction, while the narrator’s nerves are increasingly shot to pieces. Having read that Norway’s crime writers had voted this the greatest Norwegian crime novel ever*, I kept expecting something to happen that would make this book take off. In that, I was disappointed.
4 out of 10.
*Might this have been because none of them wanted to vote for another living author?
I bought a signed first edition. This book seemed promising.
It did not live up to that promise.
The story somehow links a group of British soldiers in the very last days of the First World War and events a century later. But it never really grabbed or held my attention, and I didn’t really understand the point. And I totally missed the significance of the pawn ticket, that I think was intended as a thread linking various parts of the story.
I have returned to the Vinyl Detective series for the second instalment. In this one our hero investigates the mysteries surrounding death of Valerian, a 1960s rock singer who died – as the best deceased rock stars do – age 27. Twists and turns, danger from unknown adversaries, a lot like the first book, as is to be expected.
I found this less satisfying than the first novel, Written In Dead Wax, for two reasons. First, there is no longer any mystery about Nevada: she is now the girlfriend, and does nothing particularly surprising. Second, the ending is totally rushed.
So, 4 out of 10.
That said, I have read good things about the third in the series, so I shall probably come back to that one. Let’s hope it doesn’t disappoint.