Agatha Christie meets the Vikings, with some anachronisms along the way.
I really liked the premise of this book. There's something rather irresistible about the Vikings, so a murder-mystery set in this time period sounded like a real winner. However, I struggled to connect with it, and I'm wondering if the anachronistic language, not to mention the lack of exciting 'Vikingness', killed it for me.
Helga is the adopted daughter of Hildigunnur (a kick-ass matriarch) and Unnthor Reginsson, a war-lord. They decide to have a family get-together, inviting their sons; Karl, Aslak and Bjorn, and their daughter Jorunn.
Helga is naturally excited, as is Einar, the handsome farm-help. However, this family get-together is fraught from the start. Karl is an uber-aggressive git, who keeps casting pervy eyes in Helga's direction. Aslak is a hen-pecked husband, and Bjorn is horribly mean to his son, Volund.
None of the siblings seem to care for one another that much, so it's not surprising when one ends up dead, closely followed by another. The big question is - who did it? And what secrets are lurking in the heart of the Reginsson family?
Okay - so let's start with what I did enjoy. I liked the whole Agatha Christie vibe, especially the twist of setting it in the Viking era; that was fun. There were also certain dynamics between the characters that I appreciated too - I really liked Hildigunnur's strong, no-nonsense attitude, and the fact that none of the women were pathetic little wallflowers. They were all strong and feisty... my sort of female!
However, for me, there were two major issues with this book. The first was the setting itself. It was all set in Unnthor's home, and as such, this made it feel a bit stodgy and immobile. The characters themselves weren't enough to carry the action fully, and my attention duly wandered at certain points in the book.
My second big bugbear was the language. I appreciate that these sort of books can't be written in authentic language of the time, as we wouldn't be able to understand them. However, using expressions like 'that's crap' and 'poncing around' - which are both relatively modern, really jarred with me. There was a lot of this, and I think the book would have benefited more from sticking to more 'timeless' phrases that didn't sit so awkwardly with the era.
As always, I'm fully prepared to admit this might have been an 'it's not you, it's me' thing; and that I just missed the whole point of the book. That has happened in the past! But for me, this wasn't a book I totally loved, although the author is clearly an excellent writer. As always, many thanks to the publisher / author for the chance to read it. (I am going to pass it onto Nick as I suspect it might be more his thing than mine!).