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Ridpath, Michael - 'Meltwater'
Paperback: 320 pages (Mar. 2013) Publisher: Atlantic Books ISBN: 0857898477

The clouds had rolled away to the south, nudged by the red ball slowly emerging over the eastern horizon. Pinks, oranges, golds and purples streaked sky and ice. The beauty was breathtaking, like no other crime scene Magnus had visited.

April 2010.
Erika watches the grainy images of death unfold across her laptop screen: a middle-eastern street, a UN truck, its occupants mown down as they emerge from the vehicle, a babble of foreign language, military discussions and commands. She is sickened and angry. FreeFlow must get this out onto the web. But they have to check it first, verify it. The group agree to meet in Iceland to do the necessary preparation. It's a good choice. Last year Erika appeared on Iceland TV encouraging the idea of establishing a haven for free information there and with the country still feeling the effects of the banking crash – the idea had been well received. A couple of days later FreeFlow sets up base in a rented house in Reykjavik. It's good to get together again and there are some new helpers to meet. But their sound specialist hasn't arrived yet which means a delay in verifying the crucial sound track. Someone suggests they do some quick sight-seeing whilst they have the chance; take a trip to see a volcano. Forever driven by duty and work, Erika objects but finds herself outvoted. The group drives out to the nearest glacier and crater's edge where they find that there are still some other sight-seers even though the weather is drawing in and the visibility is worsening.
Back in Reykjavik, Police Sergeant Magnus Jonson stares at the "crime wall" he has set up in his rented room. The crime in question is the unsolved murder of his father in Boston. Taking a swig at his beer he stands considering where in the family story to place the photo of his younger brother. He is interrupted by a call to work, a murder in the Hvollsvöllur district – to be exact at the edge of the volcano there; a member of a group of "foreign journalists" has been stabbed. But the "journalists" turn out to be members of the on-line activist group – Freeflow. The presence of Magnus at their interview does not go down well. Magnus is Icelandic-born and raised in America. Erika, the group leader, is convinced he is CIA and there is an angry, punch-throwing scene between Magnus and the group's well-connected Icelandic lawyer. But that's nothing compared to what is to come when Eyjafjallajökull erupts. Then, with no flights in or out of Iceland, the pressures will rise and there will be yet another death.

MELTWATER is the third in Michael Ridpath's "Fire & Ice" series featuring Magnus Jonson, a Boston cop back in his native Iceland having been seconded to the Reykjavik Police. In America Magnus feels Icelandic but in Iceland he feels American; cue for a fitting recipe for "outsider" cop. I have been enjoying this series (first WHERE THE SHADOWS LIE and second 66° NORTH) very much. This latest book continues the themes very well and the plot is enveloped in the isolating effects of the volcanic eruption of 2010 as Magnus investigates the death of two people connected to the WikiLeaks-like organisation "FreeFlow". Ridpath paints a vivid picture of Iceland: landscape, culture, history and the effects of the crash upon the economy and on its people. For Magnus there is always the "other" investigation, the unofficial one that he conducts obsessively into who killed his father ten years ago in Boston – and the connection, if any, between his murder and similar deaths in his mother's family here in Iceland. This is a great serial device but I think it may be getting close to the point where it demands that the books be read in order. And I have to say that I was not as convinced by some of the characters in this book as in the previous books; perhaps the plot lines are gaining strength over the subtleties. But I still recommend this book and the series highly. A gripping, involving police procedural set in a strangely beautiful landscape and filled with as many family feuds, sagas and tradition as any crime story set in rural Italy.

Read another review of MELTWATER.

Lynn Harvey, England
July 2014

Lynn blogs at Little Grey Doll.

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 27/07/2014 13:29