IT’S not every day that a novel set in one of the world’s least-known archipelagos, the Faroe Islands, appears in print. Even rarer is a book that delivers both a spine-tingling plot and at the same time an insightful, informative and entertaining glimpse into the psyche of the Faroese population.
Faroes-born, British-raised policeman Jan Reyna is back in the islands for the funeral of his biological father, a man with whom Reyna has had no contact since his mother died, leaving her five-year-old son to be raised by her sister in England.
At the same time the Faroese are celebrating the start of the traditional whaling season – a time when pods are driven onto beaches to be butchered and then shared by the community. This centuries-old but gory act of self-sufficiency has caught the attention of an international animal rights group that is determined to disrupt the practice in any way it can.
When the anti-whaling protesters’ photographer, Erla Sivertsen, is found murdered, the culprit is soon identified as a local fishing-boat captain and the victim’s former boyfriend, now a married man who rekindled his relationship with Sivertsen when she returned to document the hunt and for the past few weeks has been involved with her in a clandestine affair.
It’s an open-and-shut case, according to the local law enforcement branch’s second-in-command, based in Tórshavn, the Faroes’ capital and only town of any real size.
Police detective Hjalti Hentze isn’t quite so certain, however, despite being the adulterous fisherman’s father-in-law, and enlists Reyna’s help to explore other possibilities. Inadvertently the pair opens a door on subterfuge, espionage and covert intelligence that stretches far beyond the Faroes’ own watery border.
Ould describes the landscape, culture and lifestyle of the Faroe Islands to perfection, delivering a portrait of an impressively independent society that takes care of itself when threatened.