Sunday, February 10, 2013

House of Evidence by Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson

Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson

My Kindle Fire tells me that I have read exactly 38 percent of House of Evidence by Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson. It is a fascinating mystery that takes place in Iceland in the winter of 1973. 

Jacob Kieler Junior is found one snowy morning by his housekeeper. Shot dead. Turns out his father was shot and killed as well some 30 years earlier. In the same house. That murder was never solved. The house is called Birkihlid and was built by Jacob Junior's grandfather and over the years has become more of a museum than a home. 

The characters are introduced slowly and completely. There is Halldor the senior detective on the case. His is surrounded by his subordinates Egill, Erlendur, and Hrefna, the only female investigator. Johann is the forensic scientist and he is aided by his assistant Marteinn.

Between the chapters detailing the investigation of the murder, there are entries from Jacob Senior's diaries which were found on a shelf in the library. He was a railroad engineer, educated in Denmark and Germany, who ended up working in the United States for a while before returning to Iceland with his British wife. His dream was to build Iceland's first railroad.

There are long descriptions of the house and its furnishings. The forensic evidence gathering by Johann is given much prominence in the story. The diaries detail not only Jacob Senior's engineering studies but world events as well, including the start of World War I.

Halldor is a thoughtful and thorough investigator. Egill is a bit brash while Erlendur, a family man, is the one who usually gets the task of informing family members and friends of the victim's death. Hrefna is given the job of interviewing the females involved - either victims of a crime or suspects.

The translators Andrew Cauthery and Bjorg Arnadottir have done a splendid job of presenting a smooth English version of the story.

The only trouble, of course, are the names of the characters and the place names. Lots of consonants nestled against each other that don't translate well into English. How does one pronounce the initial 'Hr' in Hrefna? Or the housekeeper's Sveinborg? Or the cities of Reykjavik, Akureyri, and Svinadalur?

But I persevere and manage to keep everyone far. The story is intriguing and I am curious as to what clues Halldor will unearth that will solve these crimes. 

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