The Island

The Island by Ragnar Jónasson (translated by Victoria Cribb) is a double murder mystery, which, for the most part takes place on the tiny island of Elliðaey in the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago off southern Iceland. In 2015 I took a boat tour of these islands while on Heimaey and took the following photos:

In The Island, four friends gather on Elliðaey to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the murder of their friend, Katla. They hadn’t seen each other for a decade and decided it was a good time to remember Katla and rekindle their friendships. Benni, one of the friends, had ties to the island through an ornithological group so arranged an outing there.

This book kept me hooked from the moment I opened it. If I didn’t have plans for the evening of the day I started it, I would have finished it in a single day. The translator kept the dialogue real and the police interrogations in turn contained their own secrets. If a double murder mystery had taken place anywhere else, some of the plot developments wouldn’t have seemed credible, but on Iceland with its small population, the interactions and relationships between the characters seemed plausible.

I was wondering if I would be writing this review with the knowledge of the first murdered woman’s name. As I started to read the book I was waiting for it and, thinking that I must have encountered it early on and forgotten it, flipped through the first couple dozen pages to try (in vain) to find it. Ragnar didn’t reveal Katla’s name until page 245. I can’t be the only reader to wonder about this and Ragnar obviously intended to keep this detail a mystery. We are introduced to Hulda, a police detective assigned to the case whose daughter committed suicide, so there was always in the back of my mind the possibility that the two deceased women might have been the same person, and that the murder may have been covered up to look like a suicide.

Several people are accused of being Katla’s killer, and one of them even goes to jail and commits suicide while incarcerated, but it wouldn’t be much of a murder mystery if this early revelation ended up being true at the end.

The second murder takes place while on Elliðaey, and you will wonder who did it because there are only three other people on the tiny island. Or are there?

Ragnar got me so captivated by this book that now, as a recent retiree, if I am so enrapt in another of his books I might just well spend the entire day with it.

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