The lovely people at Corvus books sent me an advance copy of Where the Shadows Lie (previously known as Fire and Ice) by Michael Ridpath (UK publication June). I had, some years ago, read a few of this author's financial thrillers, so was looking forward to finding out what he had decided to do for his new series set in Iceland. Well, I've just finished the book and it is a thoroughly exciting story with bags of nice touches and interweaving themes, that slips down a treat. One aspect of the story was particularly fun for me – but this is one of those books that is best enjoyed if you know absolutely nothing about the plot beforehand, and strictly avoid reading the blurb. I have drafted a review which I shall submit to Euro Crime, but in the meantime I thought I would share with you the opening chapter:
Professor Agnar Harldsson folded the letter and slipped it back into its small yellowing envelope.
He glanced again at the address inscribed in an upright, ornamental hand: Hoghi Isildarson, Laugavegur 64, Reykjavik, Iceland. The stamp bore the profile of a beardless British king, an Edward or a George, Agnar wasn't certain which.
His heart thumped, the envelope performing a tiny dance in his shaking hand. The letter had arrived that morning enclosed within a larger envelope bearing a modern Icelandic stamp and a Reykjavik postmark.
It was all that Agnar could have hoped for. It was more than that; it was perfect.
As a professor of Icelandic at the University of Iceland, Agnar had been privileged to handle some of the oldest manuscripts of his country's sagas, copied out by monks with infinite care on to sheaves of calf skins using black bearberry juice for ink, and feathers from the left wings of swans for pens. Those magnificent documents were Iceland's heritage, Iceland's soul. But none of them would cause as great a stir in the outside world as this single sheet of paper.
And none of them was his discovery.
He looked up from his desk over the serene lake in front of him. It glittered a rare deep blue in the April sunshine. Ten minutes before it had glinted steel grey, and in a few more minutes it would do so again as dark clouds from the west chased after those disappearing over the snow-topped mountains across the lake to the east.
A perfect location for a summer house. The cabin had been built by Agnar's father, a former politician who was now in an old people's home. Although summer was still some time away, Agnar had escaped there for the weekend to work with no distractions. His wife had just given birth to their second child, and Agnar had a tight deadline to get through a pile of translation.
"Aggi, come back to bed."
He turned to see the breathtakingly beautiful figure of Andrea, ballet dancer and third-year literature student, naked as she glided across the bare wooden floor towards him, her blonde hair a tangled mess.
"I'm sorry, darling, I can't," he said, nodding towards the mess of papers in front of him.
"Are you sure?" She bent down to kiss him, and ran her fingers under his shirt and through the hair on his chest. She broke away. "Are you really sure?"
He smiled and removed his spectacles.
Well, perhaps he would allow himself one distraction.
The author is talking about this novel at a few UK destinations this year, starting on 9 June in London. See here for the details.