The Fire Pit, by Chris Ould

My last review was of The Killing Bay, and I said I was going straight on to this final part of Chris Ould’s trilogy set in the Faroe Islands. Please don’t read or listen to this book without having first read or listened to The Blood Strand, and The Killing Bay (in that order). This is a trilogy of books that develop the story, and I think a good deal is lost if you don’t follow the sequence.

But, that said, what a trilogy! I really cannot recommend too highly this series about Jan Reyna, a British DI of Faroese parentage, and the crimes on the Faroes. The author widens the net of characters, so that we also follow the Faroese detective Hjalti Hentze and Lisbeth Salander clone Tove, as well as others. The action in this third part moves to Denmark. The story line hangs together well across the three books, leading to a climax, that as the cliche goes, is certainly explosive.

There is definitely an 8 or 10 part TV series in these 3 books. I will be hooked to it.

The narration by Matt Addis is equally flawless. I assume that his Faroese and Danish pronunciation is perfect, and he has a convincing different voice for each character.

If you are at home in the Covid-19 lockdown, why not binge listen to these 3 audiobooks?

Mark for this book: 10 out of 10.

Mark for the series: 10 out of 10.

The Killing Bay, by Chris Ould

This is the second in Chris Ould’s trilogy of crime novels set on the Faroe Islands, coming after The Blood Strand. I am not sure how well it works as a stand alone novel; this book comes across very much as part 2 of 3.

That said, it is a very good continuation of the story of English DI Jan Reyna, and his return to the islands where his mother was born. Of course there is a murder, this time the victim is one of a group protesting the slaughter of whales. Reyna is not centrally involved in the investigation this time, that is left to Faroese detective Hjalte Hentze while Reyna digs into his mother’s story, although the strands of the various parts of the story seem likely to come together in the third part. That third part is set up in the final scenes of this book.

I was so enthralled by the story that when I got to the end of this audiobook on my drive to work I bought and downloaded the third in the series to begin listening on the drive home.

An obvious comparison is with Ann Cleeves’ Shetland series.

I will write more when I have finished The Fire Pit, the third in the series. I’m giving this 8 out of 10.

The Iron Chariot, by Stein Riverton

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?

33. The Blood Strand, by Chris Ould

Here’s a variation on the Nordic Noir theme: British cop helps solve a murder in the Faroes.

Jan Reyna’s mother took him away from the Faroe Islands when he was 3. Now in his forties, he returns to visit his estranged father, who is seriously ill. as I said, he is a policeman in the UK: by fortunate coincidence, a Detective Inspector specialising in homicide cases.

And, guess what – there’s a murder. It’s sort of all tied up with what happened to his father. It’s sort of got connections to why his mother (now dead) left all those years ago. And so Jan gets involved as a kind of consultant to the detectives in Torshavn.

This novel has what appear to be the classic ingredients of a good Nordic Noir. The bleak setting. The taciturn locals. The years old unsolved mystery.

I really enjoyed listening to this audiobook. I got the impression that the author, Chris Ould, speaks Faroese. Also the narrator, Matt Addis, prononounced Faroese words and the occasional snippet of Faroese speech fluently: definite plus points for this audiobook.

This novel is the first of three. I understand that in the next two Reyna digs deeper into his family’s past, and the story of why is mother left is revealed.

I shall be back for more of this series. 8 out of 10.

31. Cage, by Lilja Sigurdadóttir

This it the third in the author’s Reykjavik Noir trilogy. It is set a few years after Snare and Trap, with the result that I felt there was a lot missing from Sonja’s and Agla’s stories.

I found it very much harder to engage with the characters and with what was going on. The structure of short, punchy chapters did not work as well for me as it had done in the first two books. I am afraid that to me this book was rather more going through the motions, and I think I was going through the motions in reading it.

So to me, this was a disappointing end to the trilogy that had started so well.

5 out of 10 for the book, 7 out of 10 for the trilogy (the average of the 3 marks).

10 out of 10 for whoever designed the covers to the 3 books!

20. Trap, by Lilja Sigurdardottir.

Trap is part 2 in the trilogy which begins with Snare.  I think it is best read as the second act in a three act drama.

It continues the story of Sonja and Agla well, building up to the third part, Cage – due out in October 2019.  The blurb on Cage will no doubt describe it as the ‘explosive’ conclusion, they always do, and I hope it will live up to that billing.

I am not sure how well this book works as a stand-alone work, and not as part 2 of 3.

I gave Snare 8/10, so Trap gets the same.  When I read Cage, I will give the series an overall rating.

16. Snare, by Lilja Sigurdardottir

Another Icelandic crime story, set in the aftermath of the banking crash and the Eyjafallajokull volcano that closed down air traffic in (I think) 2010.

Sonja is divorced. She has no money. She becomes a drugs courier, bringing cocaine into Iceland. She is in an on-off relationship with Agla, who is facing criminal investigation for her role in financial scandals. For a large part of the book, the story is about Sonja and Customs officer Bragi, who is sure she is up to no good.  But then the twists and turns happen…

This is the promising first in a trilogy.  More soon. 8 out of 10.