A halting narrative and mixed bag of characters makes for an uneven read
Icelandic author Snorri Kristjansson’s latest Viking venture is a murder mystery-cum-family drama, aptly named Kin. Set on a farm in a secluded valley, the story revolves around the long awaited family reunion of Viking Warlord Unnthor Reginsson. Rumoured to have piles of treasure hidden on his land, each of his greedy children arrive with their own plans to uncover it. Cue clandestine meetings, grisly murders and a hell of a lot of family issues.
The majority of the novel is spent with Helga, Unnthor’s adopted teenage daughter, who proves a difficult character to warm to. As the ‘outsider’ trying to decipher long-buried rivalries and half-hidden grudges, she’s integral to the enjoyment of the novel, but being so clueless, relying on her for plot developments can feel excruciatingly slow.
Kristjansson's other players vary in quality. Bothers Bjorn and Karl feel so stereotyped it’s hard to take them seriously, while Unnthor himself is so underdeveloped and one dimensional it’s hard to believe he’s what the fuss is about.
On the other hand, Unnthor's wife and Helga’s adoptive mother, Hildigunnur, is easily the most intriguing presence in the novel, proving motherly, wise and funny but hiding her own secrets and motivations.
Unnthor’s son and daughter Aslak and Jorunn are interesting and well-crafted characters that feel underused, promising a more gripping read had they been given more prominence. Equally the unassuming farm hands Jaki and Einan work as grounded and believable presences who contribute significantly to a sense of authenticity.
Kristjansson’s setting does come to life though, with the Viking settlement well realised, creating an ominous and foreboding atmosphere in which to enjoy his noirish tale.
A halting narrative and mixed bag of characters makes for an uneven read that doesn't quite manage to be the gripping thriller is wants to be, but it's not without its moments.
Review by Alice Wybrew
5.5/10 from 1 reviews
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