books, reviews

Book Review: The Iron Chariot – Stein Riverton*

The Iron Chariot (Paperback)

On a blazing hot summer’s day, holidaymakers at a guesthouse on a Norwegian island are shocked to discover a fellow guest has been found murdered out on a desolate plain. The nameless narrator, an author, was the last person to see the victim alive; shortly afterwards, he was disturbed by a noise like ‘a rattling of chains’. A local tells him this is ‘the iron chariot’, which is said to presage death.

Detective Asbjorn Krag is summoned from the capital of Kristiania, and sets about investigating the murder. When a similar death occurs on the plain, it is again preceded by the eerie sound of the iron chariot, which leaves no tracks. Mystery is added to mystery when the victim turns out to be a man believed to have died several years earlier.

Drawn unwillingly into the investigation, the narrator is puzzled by the enigmatic detective’s apparent inaction, and troubled by unfolding events. These begin to take a toll on his mental wellbeing and he sinks into a state of dread, exacerbated by mysterious happenings at the cabin where he is staying.

So profound is his unease that he feels he must leave the island. Then Krag promises to tell him the solution to the mystery…

My Thoughts:

Voted the best ever Norwegian crime novel, written over 100 years ago this has recently been re-translated into English in a new edition.

Scandi noir is big business now, but when this clever book was first written crime fiction was in its infancy and it certainly deserves to be more widely known and read.

The unnamed narrator is firstly a witness to a murder and then becomes attached to the case by the investigating detective who requests his assistance.

The method by which the detective unravels the case, and the mystery of the iron chariot, is very clever and not one you see coming. Detective Krag, like his English cousin Sherlock Holmes, is a very smart man with a keen nose for the solution to the crimes he investigates.

This deserves to be held in the same regard as the early English language detectives from the same period and be much more widely read, the roots of Scandinavian crime writing are here.

*I was kindly sent an advance copy of this book with no requirement to review. All opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Fragility of Bodies – Sergei Oluguin*

The first in a series of novels by Olguín starring the journalist Veronica Rosenthal. It is set in Buenos-Aires and has been made into a TV series currently showing in Argentina.

Veronica is a successful young journalist, beautiful, unmarried, with a healthy appetite for bourbon and men. She is a fascinating and complicated heroine, driven by a sense of justice but also by lust and ambition.

Sensual and terse, the novel is also fiercely critical of a system that tolerates the powerful and wealthy of Buenos Aires putting the lives of young boys at risk for their entertainment.

When she hears about the suicide of a local train driver who has jumped off the roof of a block of flats, leaving a suicide note confessing to four mortal ‘accidents’ on the train tracks, she decides to investigate.

For the police the case is closed (suicide is suicide), for Veronica it is the beginning of a journey that takes her into an unfamiliar world of grinding poverty, junkie infested neighborhoods, and train drivers on commuter lines haunted by the memory of bodies hit at speed by their locomotives in the middle of the night.

Aided by a train driver informant, a junkie in rehab and two street kids willing to risk everything for a can of Coke, she uncovers a group of men involved in betting on working-class youngsters convinced to play Russian roulette by standing in front of fast-coming trains to see who endures the longest.

With bodies of children crushed under tons of steel, those of adults yielding to relentless desire, the resolution of the investigation reveals the deep bonds which unite desire and death.

Sergio Olguín was born in Buenos Aires in 1967 and was a journalist before turning to fiction. Olguín has won a number of awards, among others the Premio Tusquets 2009 for his novel Oscura monótona sangre (“Dark Monotonous Blood“)

His books have been translated into German, French and Italian. The Fragility of Bodies is his first novel to be translated into English.

The translator Miranda France is the author of two acclaimed volumes of travel writing: Don Quixote’s Delusions and Bad Times in Buenos Aires.

She has also written the novels Hill Farm and The Day Before the Fire and translated much Latin American fiction, including Claudia Piñeiro’s novels for Bitter Lemon Press.

My thoughts:

I really enjoyed this, it reminded me of the Millennium novels,but without sexual violence.

The crimes Veronica investigates are seemingly accidental but turn out to involve powerful and corrupt men.

The writing is compelling and well paced, drawing you into the knotty investigation and Veronica’s own complicated life.

This is definitely a thriller for fans of Scandi noir – only hotter and with more South American. I hope there are translations of the author’s books in the pipeline.


*I was gifted this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour.