There have always been rumours that Viking warlord Unnthor Reginsson brought home a great chest of gold when he retired from the longboats and settled with his wife Hildigunnur in a remote valley. Now, after a decade of estrangement, Unnthor’s family are gathering and long-held animosities are about to reach a murderous boiling point. When one of her siblings is found dead and another sibling is accused of his murder, Unnthor’s adopted daughter Helga decides to solve the dangerous whodunnit before an innocent man is put to the axe. But time is running out, and kin cannot be trusted.
This is this writer’s first excursion into the world of Viking Noir author Snorri Kristjansson, and things have definitely changed since I was a kid and Vikings were mostly called Erik or Noggin the Nog (and yes, I know how much those references date me). Kristjansson’s Vikings are difficult and complex, as bloodthirsty and ruthless as we would expect but also deeply, vulnerably human. The book is well titled because, first and foremost, Kin is all about the intricacy of family and the rivalries and petty grievances that are familiar to everyone. You don’t have to be a fan of Viking culture to enjoy this story – not only does Kristjansson artfully supply all the historical background necessary without bogging the reader down, the mystery at the heart of Kin is timeless and universal. This is a thriller that could take place at any moment in history, but the bleakness and brutality of the 9th century setting more than ups the ante.
More to the point, Helga makes a fantastic protagonist and Kristjansson’s decision to make her the adopted daughter who is too young to remember when the family were last united and yet the only one able to see what’s really going on, is a genius move that pays dividends as the story unfolds. She’s a character we miss whenever she’s not on the page (which thankfully isn’t very often) and it’s good to know that another Helga Finnsdottir mystery is already in the works. It will be interesting to see where Kristjansson’s imagination takes his beguiling heroine next.
KIN / AUTHOR: SNORRI KRISTJANSSON / PUBLISHER: JO FLETCHER BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: MARCH 8TH