One thousand years ago: An Icelandic warrior returns from battle, bearing a ring cut from the right hand of his foe. Seventy years ago: An Oxford professor, working from a secret source, creates the 20th century’s most pervasive legend. The professor’s name? John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. Six hours ago: An expert on Old Icelandic literature, Agnar Haraldsson, is murdered. Everything is connected, but to discover how, Detective Magnus Jonson must venture where the shadows lie….
©2010 Michael Ridpath (P)2011 Isis Publishing Ltd
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"A great find!"
This was the first time I had come across Michael Ridpath and I'm really enjoying the story and the narration by Sean Barrett.The story flows well and you feel a sympathy for the main character, Magnus, which always helps. He's not a perfect character and that makes him more likeable. The description is also good and has made me want to go to Iceland.
The story links to Tolkein's "Lord of the Rings" and this linked to the Icelandic sagas gives an interesting element so the focus isn't just on the experience around the murder but on why it happened.
I'll definitely be reading Michael Ridpath's other novels.
I have listened to this twice already and enjoyed it just as much both times. It's great fun and I love the way it plays with the sagas and that enigmatic 20th Century British saga, The Lord of the Rings.
The characters convince in their settings, but the landscape is a whole intriguing character to itself; the novel has put Iceland high on my list of places to visit.
Sean Barrett's narration is once again peerless - if only they ask him to read every book. He actually bothers to get accents and pronunciation right which is a pure joy.
Can't wait for the next instalment from Ridpath and Barrett.
"Interesting and Enjoyable"
Insight in to the Icelandic culture with historical perspective on Sagas and Tolkein. Plot holds interest with the standard, emotionally disfunctional detective.
If you can accept that a Boston cop, in hiding as a major crime witness, would be "hidden" in Iceland, then this is a very enjoyable listen.
There are links to sagas, icelandic superstitions and to Tolkien's major opus... and there is a ring too!
Narration is excellent, the plot moves along at a brisk pace - not too much gore despite plenty of deaths. This is a highly recommended book for those who like Nordic novels. Certainly makes a case to visit Iceland!
Magnus is a Boston detective who is got out for his own protection as he is a witness in a case. He goes to Iceland because he was born there of Icelandic parents but spent his life from his teenage years in America. He is ostensibly there to give the Icelandic police the benefit of his knowledge in serious crime but the local detective he is assigned to work with resents his presence. After only a few days Magnus manages to give him plenty of reasons for side-lining him from a murder investigation.
I enjoyed it but it is not the average police procedural. There are plenty of detectives who break the rules to get results and we love them for it. Here, if Magnus gets results it is in spite of and not because of his rule-breaking. The investigation seems to be out of control very soon with Magnus off doing his own thing and the local man ignoring or impeding him. Other officers are either spooked by witnesses or have vital clues but don't follow them up. Magnus never seems to be able to cope with the idea that he has to be able to do his job with out a gun to hand and that things are done differently in Iceland. The police Commissioner is the most level-headed of them all.
It could have been irritating but instead I found the whole thing very refreshing and enjoyed it. I was rooting for Magnus to succeed, although I am not sure I am sufficiently interested in Magnus to follow him into other stories. The story has links to Icelandic sagas and Tolkien which are interesting and fun, not at all overdone or straining credulity.
The author puts in just the right amount of local detail to give a sense of place and doesn't put in too much just to show what he knows. I didn't feel I was being forced to remember at all times that the story was set in Iceland - it just was and very interesting it was too.
Sean Barrett's reading is excellent, very spirited.
"LOTR/Hobbit fans will love the connections"
Any Lord of the Rings or Hobbit fans will LOVE this book if they buy it as it has very strong links to it.
The names and places were a bit difficult to get to grips with but they are Icelandic so I should have expected them.
I really enjoyed it and got though it really quickly. -
Go on give it a try.....
"Great Idea but poor execution"
The premise of this book was really interesting - a previously unknown saga about a ring of power, a saga that inspired 'Lord of the Rings'. When people start dying it is clear that someone believes the ring is real, and is willing to kill for it.
So far so good.
Unfortunately the author doesn't seem to know where to take the plot after his initial great idea. His lack of direction is shown by his need to add a pointless sub-plot with an American cop forced to go into hiding. Why was this necessary? It simply highlighted the lack of substance in the main plotline.
The characterisation is poor and there is no sense of place. I have been to Iceland and it is a beautiful and magical place where mythology is woven into history. There is no feel for Iceland at all in this novel, which is such a waste of the setting.
All in all, despite a good narrator, this was a very disappointing book.
"Unexpectedly annoying narration"
Sean Barrett is one of my favourite narrators and I have listened to and loved many books read by him, especially the Jo Nesbo books. But I would not listen to another "American" book narrated by him.
I may try another Michael Ridpath book - depending on the narrator.
There's nothing particularly special about the book - it's on a par with many crime/thriller novels. The added historical/fantasy connection of the Icelandic sagas gives it an interesting edge. It has a similar feel to many of the Scandinavian crime genre.
Did anybody actually listen to Sean Barrett's narration before releasing this? The lead character is an American, and Sean's American accent is, at best, questionable. But what makes it worse, is that he keeps slipping in and out of it.
It wouldn't be too bad if he narrated in his normal voice and only used an American accent when certain characters were speaking. But he keeps slipping into a poor accent during pats of the narration, when some of the text reminds him that a part of the action is set in the U.S for example. So in the space of 2 sentences he'll go from reading in his English accent, to uttering a couple of minutes in a poor American accent (after a sentence contains the word "sidewalk" for example) which then fades out again aver the next couple of minutes.
It really is all over the place and almost made me give up on this book.
Yes - just. The story is only just good enough to put up with the narration.
Could have been so much better, if only Sean Barrett ha stuck to what he's good at (or some decent audio editors had been on the ball and ensured some consistency).
If you read paper copies, then I'd recommend this book in hard copy rather than audio.
"Police Procedural Meets Tolkien"
This is the opening book in Michael Ridpath's Fire and Ice series. It is a decent police procedural but it's fair to say that it does take a different path to the norm. Not unusual is the lead Detective Magnus Jonson who is a tough but principled US cop embroiled in a nasty case of police corruption.
What is unusual is that this tough US cop is taken out of the chaos of inner-city policing to the tranquil and bleakly beautiful environs of Iceland. A country that was once his home. A land where guns are unheard of and everyone seems to know everyone else.
I liked the characters in this one and a decent police procedural thriller does emerge with enough twists and turns to keep a reader interested. What is different is the focus on the Icelandic sagas and the Lord of the Rings. Ridpath cleverly entwines these two elements into a modern story as the modern-day Icelanders get to grips with their history and embroil the obsessed into their story as a result.
So that's the health warning with this one. If you haven't read the Lord of the Rings or myths and legends such as the Icelandic sagas don't appeal then you should be aware that the story is built around them. You could still read it and get something out of it but you will be subjected to some ancient storytelling and the significance of the ring and how it affects people may not be so readily apparent.
Happily for me I love both aspects of this book so I was like a pig in the proverbial organic substances. It will be interesting to see how Ridpath went on to develop this series. The mix of historical superstition with modern policing may well continue to be intriguing to those who enjoy such things.
"Rings and shadows"
There are two main storylines here, one dealing with murder, the other with retribution. There’s no great suspense, though the narrative is competently accomplished and the author wisely steers away from too close an association with fantasy literature.
The bleakness of the Icelandic countryside is well observed and none of the characters slips into caricature. In the end I could have done without the American drug angle, though something presumably was needed to justify the return to Iceland.
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