The Commandments by Oskar Guomundsson – Translated by Quentin Bates

Icelandic Noir at its finest, with an intensity that sings out on the pages, plotting which constantly leaves you second guessing

Format: Paperback

Published by: Corylus Books


Former detective Salka Steinsdóttir finds herself unwillingly pitched into the toughest investigation of her life, just as she returns to the tranquil north of Iceland to recover from a personal trauma.

The victim is someone she had pursued earlier in her career – and had never been able to pin down. Now a killer has taken the law into their own hands and meted out brutal retribution for ancient crimes.

Salka is faced with tracking down the murderer of a stalwart of the church and the community, a man whose reputation stretches deep into the past, and even into the police team tasked with solving the case.

As the killer prepares to strike again, Salka and her team search for the band of old friends who could be either killers or victims – or both.

My Thoughts:

Firstly many thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of the book to review and to Ewa Sherman for inviting me to be part of the blog tour.

I came to this book not knowing the author or what to expect, I am familiar with some of the translators previous works and his own novels so felt reasonably sure the book was going to be for me, and boy it does not disappoint. It maybe a fairly short novel, however it packs a lot in.

I don’t want to give any of the plot away as this only takes from the readers enjoyment and I want them to discover and have the same feelings I had as I read the book

The book tackles dark and sensitive issues but not in a gratuitous way, its about the plot not the actions, part is left to the reader’s imagination

The book draws the reader in from the get go, the writing is vivid and descriptive, you get a real sense of place and feel for the location and characters.

The opening gives you a sense of what is to follow, powerful with an underlying sense of foreboding and fear

The killings whilst gruesome in and of themselves are not graphic, but you can feel the fear and terror within the victims.

The book is wonderfully and intricately plotted, the ending not one I saw coming, the book has many turns as the past is unravelled, the pacing slick written with strong undercurrents of people haunted and disturbed by the past

The characters are written in such a way that you feel and believe in them, particularly Salka a woman strong and determined to get to the truth, she has a troubled past, some of which we learn about little by little, which makes her interesting and wanting to know more,, emotion and pain shines throughout which a gives a real depth, the characters are all multifaceted adding that extra dimension and interest

I often feel when reading Icelandic or scandi fiction that location plays a real part and this book is no different it gives an added dimension you can feel the chills

The story flows thanks to the translation so critical in bringing the authors words and feelings to the page for a new audience, you can feel the tension heighten as the story progresses, the importance of the translator should never be forgotten and here Quentin Bates has combined with the author to bring the reader a remarkable book

This is a compelling read that delivers on all fronts and one which is highly recommended and one you need to read

There are some fantastic Icelandic authors and I can now add Oskar Guomundsson to that list, an author whose other works I look forward to reading


Categories 2021 Reviews

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