Monday, June 17, 2013
Review of Where the Shadows Lie by Michael Ridpath (Corvus, 2010)
The strength of Where the Shadows Lie are the lead character, the outsider-insider storyline, and contextualisation with respect to the Tolkein and Lord of the Rings. Magnus Jonson is a strong and engaging lead character who has been unsettled by the corruption case in Boston, the move back to Iceland, and splitting with his long-term partner. Born in the country, able to speak and read the language, and being familiar with its lore, but having left for the US when he was twelve, Magnus is both an insider and outsider; a square peg looking to fit a round hole, but nevertheless a peg. The other characterisation is also generally good, with an interesting cast. The link between Tolkein and a long lost Icelandic saga seems both plausible and credible, though the plotline concerning the ring, as opposed to the manuscript, seemed a little ridiculous and over-wrought. Indeed, the plot does lack credibility at a number of different points, including the premise for him being sent to Iceland (which should rest on the months of FBI case building and not him witnessing one exchange), and his relationship with Colby (which seemed long over). Moreover, the writing is often quite pedestrian and flat, lacking in engaging prose and with too much show rather than tell. Overall, an interesting lead character and I’d try the second book in the series, in which the plotting is hopefully a little less fanciful.