Thursday 7 December 2023

Ten Years of the Petrona: FATAL ISLES by Maria Adolfsson, translated by by Agnes Broomé

The seventh post on the first ten Petrona Award winners, is a review by current Petrona Judge, Miriam Owen, of the 2022 Petrona Award winner FATAL ISLES by Maria Adolfsson, translated by Agnes Broomé and published by Zaffre in 2021.

“What year was it they came here? Sixty-nine?” 

“Seventy” says Kloes says. “Same year my youngest boy was born. I remember when they arrived in their Peruvian knitted hats, talking a big game about organic agriculture and living off the land and all kinds of nonsense like that. They were going to share everything, they said. 

Are you one of those people who reads the end of the book first? FATAL ISLES will satisfy your weird reading habits if you are. I am not one of those readers. When I read I do not give much thought to solving the crime preferring to wallow in the locations, characters and the decisions they make. FATAL ISLES really allowed me to enjoy these aspects in a very satisfying way. 

FATAL ISLES is set in Doggerland. A group of islands in the North Sea between Denmark and the United Kingdom. Maria Adolfsson paints a vivid picture of a northern island community with traditions, powerful (and poor) families and incomers. The island weather game is strong; harsh winters, ferry travel can be rough, unkept eroded roads. Doggerland is definitely a character in its own right in FATAL ISLES. It all feels so authentic … except it is totally fictional! Completely made up by Adolffson but it came alive on the pages so much you would never guess. There is something about that small island dynamic I enjoy, real or fictional. 

Our main character is DI Karen Eiken Hornby. She is a likeable character who left Doggerland and then returned. She seems to enjoy her job despite having a hard time climbing the ladder. Her colleagues are a mixed bunch and the variety of relationships she has with them keeps things interesting. The main story revolves around the murder of a woman who was the ex-wife of Eiken’s immediate boss. This means, as the lead investigator on this case she needs to question her boss. Always fun. The tension is high! There really is a great cast of interesting characters in FATAL ISLES. Eiken links the murder to a commune that existed on the island in the past. So if that kind of thing appeals to you (as it does to me) then you are in for a treat. She also takes her time to describe the food in FATAL ISLES which is a small but important aspect that I really appreciate in books. I found this to be a solid, really well written police procedural and I really want to go back to Doggerland. 

Miriam Owen @Nordic Noir

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