Today it is my great pleasure to share my thoughts on The Fox, the brand new thriller from Icelandic author Sólveig Pálsdóttir and Corylus Books. My thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of the book for review. I’ve really developed a love for Icelandic fiction and couldn’t wait to tuck in. Here’s what the book was all about:
About the Book
Hoping to put behind him tragedy in his professional life and to resolve the turmoil in his personal life, Reykjavík police officer Guðgeir Fransson has moved as far away from home as he can, marking time in a dead-end job in a small town in eastern Iceland.
His detective’s instincts are triggered when he hears about a foreign woman who arrived in this tight-knit community – and then disappeared as suddenly as she had appeared. The trail of the missing woman takes him back to Reykjavík, and then to a remote farmhouse beneath dark mountains where an elderly woman and her son live with their sinister past.
An exciting new voice in Nordic crime fiction, Glass Key Award-nominated Icelandic author Sólveig Pálsdóttir is published for the first time in English.
I’ve really come to like reading Icelandic crime fiction over the past few years. The love affair started with the isolated mystery of the Dark Iceland series by Ragnar Jonasson, turned a little darker with the devilishly twisted investigations of the Children’s House series by Yrsa Sigurdardottir and turned to a touch of the (not quite Joe) exotic with Lilja Sigurdardottir’s Reykjavik Noir series, with a little bit of Corylus Books’ own Quentin Bates Gunnhildur series along the way. So when I heard that Corylus were going to release Sólveig Pálsdóttir’s The Fox, it was a bit of a no brainer when I was asked if I’d like to review it.
There is a kind of essence of the Dark iceland series about this book when you first start reading, albeit with a little twist. Rather than a young Police Officer heading to a remote Iceland town to begin his career, in The Fox we find Police Detective Guðgeir Fransson hiding away in the east of the island to escape the mess his career, and his family life, has become. Now we don’t find out the full details of exactly what happened to force Guðgeir into exile but we learn enough. That’s okay though as that really isn’t the point if the story, although it does put out protagonist in just the right place to solve a mystery. And what a mystery this is.
Sajee, a young woman from Sri Lanka moves to the east for what she believes is a guaranteed job, only to find things aren’t as clear as she thought they would be. She disappears almost as quickly as she arrives … at least that is how it appears to Guðgeir when his landlord, one of the last and only people to see Sajee, mentions her in passing. Once a Detective, always a Detective and with his interest piqued, Guðgeir sets about tracking the mystery woman, a quest that leads him, and us through the course of the book.
The story is primarily told from two points of view, those of Guðgeir and Sajee. Whilst the good folk of Höfn maybe none the wiser as to Sajee’s fate, as readers we are right there with her as she unwittingly finds herself in great danger. Sajee is an interesting character, driven by a desire to be more than just a cleaner and guided by the superstitions and traditions of her home land. I couldn’t help but feel for her and the way in which her isolation and distress is portrayed is quite effective. Nothing too dramatic or upsetting, but enough for you to root for her to be saved. Guðgeir is another character I grew to like very quickly. He is flawed, has made mistakes, and there is a tragedy in his professional life which clearly haunts him, but his determination to help a woman he has never met is very endearing and his natural instincts for a story written in a very believable way.
The way in which the country itself is presented is very cinematic with a real feel for the various landscapes and the isolation, particularly in the remote farmhouse that Sajee ends up securing a job at. If there is one thing that Iceland seems to do well, it is remote settings and that contradictory feeling of the farmhouse being all at once both dramatically vast and overwhelmingly claustrophobic really plays through in the narrative. Add in the undercurrent of unease that suffuses the novel and you are left with a book that is completely engrossing.
A really intriguing book which I thoroughly enjoyed and I’m looking forward to hearing more from the author. Another brilliant translation from Quentin Bates too that really captured the remote feel of the novel. And if you want to know why it is called The Fox? Well you’re just going to have to read it, aren’t you?
About the Author
Sólveig Pálsdóttir is the 2020 winner of the Drop of Blood (Blóðdropinn) for the best Icelandic crime novel published in 2019 – for Fjötrar (Shackles), which will therefore be the Icelandic novel put forward for the Nordic Glass Key award this year. Shackles will be published by Corylus Books in 2021.