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Ridpath, Michael - '66 Degrees North'
Hardback: 352 pages (May 2011) Publisher: Corvus ISBN: 1848874006

In January 2009 Iceland is a troubled country, with many lives ruined following the Kreppa (financial crisis). Many people have marched to the square to stand outside the Parliament building in Reykjavik to protest. Among then is Harpa, who has lost her job in the bank and can no longer pay her mortgage, her brother also, can no longer make the payments on his farm, and her father who should be enjoying his retirement has lost all his savings. But these and similar stories are all around as the angry Icelanders beat drums, saucepans and any kitchen utensils they can get their hands on. Among such a melee Harpa meets a fisherman Bjorn, Sindri Palsson, a writer, and along with some others they vent their anger at the bankers whose greed has created this situation, calling for something to be done. But in the main the demonstration although noisy is relatively peaceful. The government are relieved that it wasn't worse, no deaths reported, just the suicide of a banker Gabriel Orn.

Sergeant Detective Magnus Jonson of the Boston Police Department is on secondment to Reykjavik following his involvement as a witness in a police corruption scandal in Boston. Magnus is Icelandic born but has lived in the USA since he was twelve. When the National Police Commissioner of Iceland became concerned about big-city crime reaching Iceland he had requested an American Police Detective who had practical experience and spoke Icelandic to give a teaching course at the National Police College on crime in the USA. Magnus was the natural choice.

The murder in London of the Icelandic banker Oskar Gunnarsson brings Magnus back to hands-on police work. Although quite enjoying his teaching he is a detective at heart. Inspector Baldur Jakobsson head of the Violent Crimes Unit is keen to ensure that there is no Icelandic connection, as he does not want Iceland linked to terrorists, but when Magnus looks into the background of Oskar Gunnarsson he learns that he worked at the same bank as Gabriel Orn, indeed he was his boss. Magnus is uneasy with such a coincidence and starts to dig deeper, which puts him in communication with Detective Sergeant Piper of the British police.

As Magnus investigates the possible connection between the two deaths, he comes into contact with an estranged family member, and encouraged by his girlfriend Ingileif he arranges a meeting in the hope of laying to rest some of the traumas in his family's past. But his meeting only raises more questions - which unbeknown to him reach back to events in 1934, when two young boys stumbled on a secret whilst acting out one of the Icelandic historic Sagas.

As with the first book in this series WHERE THE SHADOWS LIE I learnt much about Iceland, its culture and in particular the historic Sagas. The two investigations, one international and one personal run concurrently, and both are absorbing. The story is one of anger, helplessness, fear, and in some respects everyone's greed. As more people in influential positions are murdered Magnus continues to pursue his line of investigation which is not in-line with his superiors. The 'whodunit' aspect kept me enthralled to the end. And the final sentence has me leaping up and down for the next book.

66 DEGREES NORTH is a real page turner, an excellent piece of writing. Highly recommended.

Read more reviews of 66 DEGREES NORTH, here and here.

Lizzie Hayes, England
August 2011

Lizzie blogs at Promoting Crime Fiction.

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 4/03/2012 09:57