Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Icelander--The Metaphysical Mystery Novel

I selected the novel Icelander by Dustin Long based solely on the appeal of  its cover--an embossed line sketch with silver highlighting.  You don't get the same tactile sense when  reading with a Kindle.  OK, the novel doesn't have any Icelandic horses in it.  It does have Icelanders in it---both the above ground and the below ground dwellers the Vanatru.  Yes, that right I said the subterranean, fox worshiping Vanatru who are inciting for sovereignty within Iceland.  So this is also a mystery set in an alternative universe.

At its simplest, the mystery revolves around the murder of Shirley MacGuffin.  Per Hitchcock, the term "MacGuffin" is "the mechanical element that usually crops up in any story. In crook stories it is almost always the necklace and in spy stories it is most always the papers." 
Source: Marshall Deutelbaum, Leland A. Poague (2009) A Hitchcock reader p.114. John Wiley and Sons.   A MacGuffin is essentially meaningless in itself but the search for it drives the plot of the book/movie.

"Our Heroine" is the offspring of Emily Bean-Ymirson, the famous crime solver, and  Jon Ymirson, an adventurer and anthropologist.  She is trying desperately not to be dragged into solving the murder of her friend since she has spent her youth being involved in her mother's adventures, which are immortalized in the 12-volume fictionalized series by Magnus Valison.  There are a host of supporting characters from Wible & Pacheco, the "philosophical investigators;" Garm the Dachshund; Gerd, Queen of the Vanatru; and the Refurserkir, fox-fur wearing Ninjas who serve Gerd.

The best way to describe the style of this book is to compare it to how the author describes the placement of Magnus Valison's novel The Case of the Consternated Cossack which is located between Herman Melville's The Confidence Man and Sir Author Conan Doyle's Valley of Fear but above and below books by Vladimir Nabokov and Elizabeth Peters (author of the Amelia Peabody mysteries).  In other words, Icelander marries the writing style of Nabokov with the plotting of Peters within a self-referential literary romp which adds  references to Scandinavian mythology and 17th century English literature.

You will either love this book or hate it.  But read at least 50 pages before making up your mind.  It wasn't until pg. 41 when the academics Dr. Lorenz, Mohs, and Curleigh (Larry, Moe, and Curley) appear that I got caught up in the free-wheeling spirit of the book.

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