66° North – Michael Ridpath

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Iceland, the volcanic island in the North Atlantic is the main feature of “66 ° North” with its lava fields, fells, mountains, and barren landscape. In addition to the exotic landscape, Iceland’s political and societal landscape serves as a new and highly interesting foundation for a crime novel. Iceland is an exciting place, and it is really what sets this novel apart from the many, many others in the same genre.

In 2009, Iceland almost literally went kerplunk. The historical economic boom came to an end with devestating results for the Icelandic individual and the nation as a whole. Huge loans in international currencies were defaulted and Iceland now has an almost insurmountable debt. That is the starting point for a meeting of 5 individuals at a demonstration ending in the death of a banker.

The main character is Boston PD detective Magnus, who has come to his ancestral Iceland to work with the police there. With his American, big city/violent crime background, he seems almost over-dimensional in comparison to the more muted Icelandic police force, who do not carry weapons. Magnus is a great character in my opinion, a foreigner in a new environment and neither a Rambo nor a passive follower. Another main character is Harpa, one of the five individuals mentioned above. She is a former banker, feeling guilty for her banking past and the death she is complicit to.

The plot itself is excellent and fits with both the characters and Iceland. There are flashbacks to the 1930s and 1940s with crimes in Magnus’ family. These are not resolved in the novel, so the saga continues. I will definitely keep an eye out for other novels by Michael Ridpath, and recommend “66° North” to readers, who enjoy crime novels and who are interesting Iceland and/or the recent global economic bust.

P.S. “66° North” is actually the second installment in the fire & ice series.

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