The Flatey Enigma

Las Vegas

The crime novel Flateyjargáta, translated to English by Brian Fitzgibbon.

About the book:

Near a deserted island off the western coast of Iceland in 1960, the dawning of spring brings new life for the local wildlife. But for the decaying body discovered by three seal hunters, winter is a matter of permanence. After it is found to be a missing Danish cryptographer missing for months, the ensuing investigation uncovers a mysterious link between the researcher and a medieval manuscript known as The Book of Flatey.

Before long another body is found on the tiny island for Flatey. This time, in the ancient Viking tradition, the victim’s back has been mutilated with the so-called blood eagle. Kjartan, the district magistrate’s representative sent to investigate the crime, soon finds himself descending into a dark, dangerous world of ancient legends, symbolism, and secret societies to find a killer.

From the book:

Kjartan got dressed and climbed down the almost vertical staircase from the loft. A strong fragrance of coffee wafted through the kitchen, and the mistress of the household was hanging up waqshing on the line in the level yard in front of the house. She was dressed in the same woolen clothes she'd worn the day before and was wearing her striped apron. A girl of about eight years of age stood by her side and handed her begs, which she fished out of an old can of paint.

Kjartan grabbed the pot of coffee on the stove and poured himself a cup. He then walked outside and looked down at the village. The dtide was coming in, and the cluster of houses were reflected in the sea that was filling the cove below the embankment. A number of inhabitants could be seen wandering between the houses, and no one seemed to be in a hurry. Those whose paths crossed paused to chat, both young and old. It was more the hens that seemed to be in a hurry as they darted between the gardens of the houses. Despite the sunshine, there was a breeze and it was quite chilly.

Good morning, young man, Ingibjörg said when she noticed Kjartan had come out.

Good morning.

We still have dry weather.

Hmm, yeah.

Ingibjörg finished hanging up the last garment.

we're still far from the haymaking season, of course, but it would be good to be able to dry the eiderdown in the sunshine, she said.

Hmm, really? Where is Grímur today anyway? Kjartan asked.

They went out at the crack of dawn to check on the seal nets. They should be back by noon.


Grímur put up your notice before he left.


And the telephone exchange will be open at ten so you can ring your boss, the district magistrate.

She turned to the girl. Thans for your help, Rosa darling. Run along and play now.

the girl put the can down and skipped away.

Ingibjörg dissapeared into the house with the empty washing basket in her hands.

Kjartan sat on an old whale bone that lay by the gable of the house and sipped on his coffee. Visibility was good in the clear weather, and he felt he could see a white painted house on the mainland to the north, although it could also have been the remains of some snow.

The screeching of cliff birds reached him from Hafnarey and fused with the surrounding bleating of sheep. The salted scent of the sea lingered in the breze.

Ingibjörg came out again and had removed her apron now, put on a tasseled cap, and draped a knitted shawl over her shoulders.

I'll walk you down to the telephone exchange now, she said cheerfully.

They followed the path to the road and headed down toward the village. Ingibjörg walked a lot slower than what he was used to and occasionally halted completely to look at something or chat with the people they bumped into. He waited patiently and responded to the greetings of the people Ingibjörg introduced him to. But he was slightly unnerved by the way people brazenly stared at him as soon as they started nattering with the district officer's wife.