Translated from Icelandic by Quentin Bates.
You can take the detective out of the job but you can’t take the job out of the detective …
The Fox is the first of Sólveig Pálsdóttir’s novels to be translated into English, though I think it is actually the fourth novel in her detective series. As a result Guðgeir Fransson is an experienced detective with a heightened sense for danger. When he coincidentally hears the story of a foreign woman, spotted in the small town of Höfn – not known for receiving foreign visitors during off-season – who then disappears without a trace, his antenna are raised. Trouble is he’s in exile of sorts. Something went badly wrong – I assume in book 3 – which has resulted in a trial separation from his wife and suspension from the day job. There’s not much he can do, is there?
As readers we know all about the mysterious lady. Her name is Sajee, she is Sri Lankan and has been working in Reykjavik as a maid, but has decided to move to Höfn to take up the offer of work in a beauty parlour. The job is non-existent. Fortunately for Sajee, the kindly stranger she met on the plane is on hand to help, and he finds her work at a remote farm inhabited by an elderly woman and her son.
This is where the story turns darker, by degrees. The woman welcomes Sajee, the son does not. They do not pay her, so she cannot go elsewhere. Other visitors are not welcomed. The elderly woman has sudden changes of mood. Gradually Sajee’s discomfort turns to fear, but are they valid fears, or are her forebodings simply brought on by the dark fables of the mountainous landscape and the old woman’s preoccupation with a resemblance between Sajee and her dead daughter?
Páldóttir’s ratcheting up of the tension is both subtle and sure. The level of malice is astounding. At times it was a blessed relief to return to Fransson and his unofficial investigation, which thanks to his established connections gains traction. Ironically though, when bigger crimes are uncovered, Sajee in put in even greater danger ….
The Fox was my second read from new publisher Corylus Books, and the first I read in book form. A joy in itself. There’s nothing quite like having a french-flapped paperback in your hands. And what a beauty of a cover! I defy anyone interested in crime fiction not to be intrigued by it! All I can say is follow the intrigue – it will be worth it.