Skip to main content

Reykjavík: A Crime Story


Reykjavík: A Crime Story

There aren’t many writers these days who understand the distinct landscape of Iceland like Ragnar Jónasson. He already has made a career out of penning Icelandic mysteries told in the style of one of his heroes, Dame Agatha Christie, to whom this novel is dedicated. This time, he teams up with Katrín Jakobsdóttir, the Prime Minister of Iceland, for what may be his finest novel to date.

Spanning half a century, REYKJAVÍK is a slow-burn mystery that never disappoints. This is a compliment not only to the authors but to the handful of characters who share the lead in this tale about a cold case that demands to be solved.

"REYKJAVÍK is a novel that would have made Agatha Christie proud as it is filled with numerous suspects and clues that are slowly unveiled bit by bit until the final reveal."

It is 1956, and 14-year-old Lára is missing. She was last seen at her summer job working for a wealthy couple on the small island of Videy, just off the coast of Reykjavík. Police officer Kristján Kristjánsson meets with Óttar Óskarsson and his wife, Ólöf Blöndal. They are quite standoffish, give little to no valuable information, and presume to promptly dismiss Kristján from their home. He follows up on every other lead he can find, a few of which appear to be promising, but is unable to turn up anything about Lára or her whereabouts.

A decade later, Kristján feels in his heart that he will find out what happened to Lára. But nothing ever comes of it, and Kristján and the case fade from public view. In 1986, which marks Reykjavík’s 200th anniversary, journalist Valur Róbertsson launches his own investigation into what happened. He begins with the now-retired Kristján, who doesn’t give him much to go on. Thirty years has certainly increased the investigatory options at Valur’s fingertips, and he intends to see them to the finish --- despite the doubts of his editor, who only likes the story as a publicity stunt to sell papers.

Valur is able to turn up much more than Kristján ever did, including findings from a psychic who had met with Óttar and Ólöf and has some interesting things to tell him. Out of the blue, Valur receives a phone call from a strange woman calling herself Julía, who says she knows the truth about Lára’s disappearance and death, as well as where her body can be found. Valur loses the call before he can get more details and spends a lot of time pursuing some of the new names that Julía shared with him.

All answers seem to point not only to the couple but to some of their wealthy, influential friends. It could be that a handful of them may have played a role in whatever was done to Lára. But just as Valur is ready to blow the lid off the case, he gets shoved from behind while crossing a crowded street. The last thing he ever sees are the eyes of the bus driver who was unable to stop before striking him and killing him instantly.

It is at this point that the story gets its third, and possibly most aggressive, protagonist. When Valur’s sister, Sunna, steps in after his funeral and takes over his notes and research, she sees where the investigation was headed and why her brother had to be silenced. She also has a background in journalism and investigative writing, so she teams up with Valur’s girlfriend, Margret, who has some deep connections herself. The tension really begins to mount as the reader is well aware the entire time that Sunna is probably directly in the sight of whoever murdered Valur.

REYKJAVÍK is a novel that would have made Agatha Christie proud as it is filled with numerous suspects and clues that are slowly unveiled bit by bit until the final reveal. I can only hope that Katrín Jakobsdóttir works with Ragnar Jónasson again, especially if this is what their output will continue to look like.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on September 9, 2023

Reykjavík: A Crime Story
by Ragnar Jónasson and Katrín Jakobsdóttir

  • Publication Date: September 5, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250907330
  • ISBN-13: 9781250907332