"Elma took in the elegant sitting room. A large, imposing canvas hung on one wall, featuring insubstantial figures among a swirl of moss and lava. A Kjarval, Elma saw from the signature at the bottom. That figured: although she didn’t know much about art, she did know that Kjarval was Iceland’s most important painter." -- Eva Björg Ægisdóttir, The Creak on the Stairs (p. 225)
|A painting of Iceland by Jóhannes Sveinsson Kjarval (1885-1972)|
If our next planned trip really happens (unlike some of our other recent failures due to the aftermath of the pandemic), we'll be going to Iceland. I'm looking forward to seeing the far northern landscapes, the villages, the volcanic activity, the birds and other wildlife, and all the other fascinating things I hope for. Meanwhile, my sister recommended an Icelandic mystery story set in a small Icelandic village called Akranes. The quoted passage introduced me to the painter Kjarval, who painted Icelandic scenery that I hope to see -- very interesting!
The Creak on the Stairs by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir, |
English Edition 2020.
In the novel, Elma, a police officer has recently returned to Akranes from Reykjavík. The two places aren't far apart, but the rugged landscape means a tunnel is necessary to connect them by direct road, and everyone recalls how isolated little Akranes once was. Elma's first assignment, the center of the novel, is to solve the case of a brutal and seemingly unmotivated murder of a young mother of two boys -- an unlikely victim:
"Statistically speaking, the average Icelandic murder victim was not a mother of two in her thirties. Since 2000, around twenty men and ten women had been murdered." (p. 126).
"Guðrún had made coffee and laid the table when they arrived, so they felt they had no choice but to sit down and accept the cake she offered them, a traditional randalína made of layers of sponge and jam." (p. 110).
"‘I hear that Akranes is becoming ever more popular with tourists,’ Elma remarked, accepting the cup of coffee Gréta offered her." (p. 131).
"She [Anna] invited Elma to take a seat at a small kitchen table covered in a flowery plastic cloth and put some of the doughnut twists known as kleinur and a cup of coffee in front of her." (p. 206).
"Vilborg invited Elma to sit down on a curry-yellow sofa and offered her some tea, which she accepted." (p. 250).
When they aren't out investigating, the officers have pastry on hand in the station:
"If this had been America they’d have had doughnuts, but here they had to make do with gingerbread biscuits, she thought, letting one dissolve in her mouth with the hot coffee." (p. 89).
Children in the book also are depicted eating things like American-style cereal. There are also quite a few food scenes in the flashbacks to the victim's childhood, where she is either starved by her dysfunctional mother, or helped by a neighbor named Solla:
"She wondered if it was too early to go to Solla’s. Her stomach was rumbling and Solla often had something nice to eat at weekends: freshly baked bread or cinnamon rolls sprinkled with sugar." (p. 166).
"The Akranes speciality, a deep-fried hot dog, tasted exactly as she had remembered. And the melted cheese, chips and burger sauce more than satisfied all her junk-food cravings." (p. 115).
|The Akranes lighthouse is the location of the victim's body in the novel. (source)|
I really hope my trip to Iceland will not be another casualty of the global pandemic. I don't know if I'll get to taste the foods I read about, or see the specific sights of Akranes -- but I have very high expectations for what I'll be able to see during our trip.
Blog post © 2021 mae sander.