Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Review of "Season of the Witch" [95]

Season of the Witch
by Arni Thorarinsson
Amazon Crossing, ISBN 978-1611091038
August 24, 2012, 224 pages

It seems that Einar, a reporter for the Afternoon News, has used up most of his goodwill with his employer. So when he is exiled from Reykjavik to the wilds of northern Iceland and the town of Akureyri to open a new regional office for the newspaper, he can’t really complain. Well, not if he wants to keep his job.
His issue has been, in large part, his drinking, but also a certain inability to do as he is told. He has stopped drinking but not having as much success with the other matter. 
Joining him are two co-workers, Joa, his lesbian, kick-ass...literally, as we see in one of the books funniest scenes… photographer and his rather nasty tempered office manager. Oh, and his roommate, left there by the man he is subletting the apartment from, a rather affectionate bird named Polly.
It seems he will have a future of reporting on high school plays, accidental deaths and asking his ‘Questions of the Week’ from passersby on the street, the sort of things that pass for news up here in the north. But things turn out to be a bit more complicated and interesting, at least from a journalist’s point of view. The scourge of drugs has not left the area untouched and the issues of immigrant workers and xenophobia are leading to more than a little violence for local police to deal with. 

But then things get even more interesting for a newspaper man. That accidental death, a woman who drowned on a local business’s team building outing, may not be an accident after all. Then the high school play, a production of Loftur the Sorcerer, an Icelandic folktale of ambition and greed, has to be cancelled when the lead actor turns up dead and his body, dressed in the gown of a witch, burned under a pile of tires in a junkyard. It seems the Great White North may not be so dull for Einar after all.
Sometime ago, I swore I would never read another Icelandic book. The names are just impossible! OK, I admit that I am not at all good with names, but these ones in Iceland...they just run on and on. Male...female, who knows? Pronounce them? Forget it. Children and their parents to not even share a last name. And the personal lives of the characters always seem rather grim. Einar is a drunk, divorced, with a daughter that he never gets to see. Is everyone in these books in Iceland and Sweden and Norway divorced? Does no one have a close relationship with their kids?
But at least Einar has Polly! The bird.
And the truth be known, it is Polly and Joa and the rather charming Einar that save this book.
The plot is sloooowly revealed. The reader looking for a fast paced thriller might best look elsewhere. If it weren’t for the often funny and sometimes sweet interactions of some of the characters, you might be tempted to put this one aside.
Oh yes, Einar can seem a bit gruff. His thirst can almost get the best of him at times and his beloved smoking is allowed in fewer places every day, making him a little short tempered. But we also get a glimpse of another man when we see his interactions with the elderly mother of the dead woman, a nursing home resident who believes her daughter was murdered or when he is talking to his daughter on the phone, and in large part things like this were the saving grace of this book. Einar is clever and figures out, finally, the rather complicated goings on, but you will have to enjoy the ride to hang on until the end. Which I did.
And then, of course, there is his relationship with that birdie Polly, one that will take a surprising twist at the end of the book. Oh my…
And Einar..please put that glass of wine down!
If you are a fan of Scandinavian mysteries, this is one I think you will want to check out and an author you will enjoy.


  1. just finished an excellent Scandinavian mystery called The Hypnotist ...

  2. When I encounter a book with names like that, I just use the characters initials in my head. I'm wondering why the parents and children have different last names.

    1. They take the fathers FIRST name and the sons ladt name will be the fathers first name plus Son and the daughter will be the fathers first name plus Dottir. So a couple with two kids would have four different last names.
      None of which I can pronounce.


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