Where the Shadows Lie - Michael Ridpath

***** Even in Iceland people kill

Halfway between crime thriller and mystery, this novel by Michael Ridpath is the first of his series set in Iceland and starring Detective Magnus Jonson (or rather, Ragnarsson).
Threatened by the boss of a gang against which he must testify, Magnus, a homicide detective from Boston, is sent to Iceland, which he is originally from, to collaborate for a short time with the local police and at the same time stay safe until the trial. He is thus involved in investigating the murder of a university professor who seems to have made an important discovery about a lost Icelandic saga that would have inspired Tolkien while writing “The Lord of the Rings”.
In an Iceland in which legend and reality, well evoked by the splendid prose of the author, are confused, we are told a story of investigations, interrogations and deductions, which occupy a large part of the book, making it mostly a mystery. To this the personal story of Magnus is added, which however remains quite marginal.
I must say that identifying the killer was not too difficult. As usual in these books, the more interest is focused on a character, the clearer it becomes that this is not the killer, so by process of elimination you get to the solution before the protagonist.
To tell the truth as I read this book little did I care to find out who had killed the professor. I was too involved on admiring Iceland, evoked by the author, among volcanoes, waterfalls, lakes and farms, and in appreciating his ability to credibly insert “The Lord of the Rings” in those contexts. I believe that the idea of imagining a link between this famous book and a lost saga is brilliant and is worth reading the novel.
I really appreciated the research work of the author. The very fact that he is not Icelandic (he is British) has pushed him to clarify many small aspects that a local author would have taken for granted and this has made the book even more interesting for people like me who are intrigued by the so-called land of fire and ice.
Overall I found this novel an engaging and informative reading, one of those that, besides entertaining you, teach you something.