Sunday 21 November 2021

The Commandments by Óskar Guðmundsson BLOG TOUR #TheCommandments @oskargudmunds @CorylusB t.@graskeggur #BookReview


Former detective Salka Steinsdóttir finds herself unwillingly pitched into the toughest investigation of her life, just as she returns to the tranquil north of Iceland to recover from a personal trauma.

The victim is someone she had pursued earlier in her career – and had never been able to pin down. Now a killer has taken the law into their own hands and meted out brutal retribution for ancient crimes.

Salka is faced with tracking down the murderer of a stalwart of the church and the community, a man whose reputation stretches deep into the past, and even into the police team tasked with solving the case.

As the killer prepares to strike again, Salka and her team search for the band of old friends who could be either killers or victims – or both.

A bestseller in Iceland, The Commandments asks many challenging questions as it takes on some highly controversial issues.

The Commandments by Óskar Guðmundsson was published in paperback on 12 October 2021 by Corylus Books and is translated by Quentin Bates. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this blog tour. 

The Commandments is a fairly short novel that packs a massive emotional punch. The author deals with some of the darkest issues, and does it extremely well. It's often violent, it's always shocking, and it's put together so very well. The translation from the Icelandic to English by Quentin Bates is superb, and the reader is transported to the small town where the events take place. 

Salka Steinsdóttir has returned to her hometown after spending time in London. She's carrying a lot of emotional baggage, although the reader is not yet aware of what has happened to her. Spending her time fly fishing and fielding off constant enquiries from her Mother, she's starting to heal. However, Salka soon finds herself back at work, recruited by the local police to investigate some violent and bloody crimes. 

There's been a murder, and the dead man is a local priest and Salka knows him. She questioned him years ago as part of alleged offences against young people. He escaped conviction, has somebody finally given out their own punishment?

Salka is a an interesting character and one that readers will empathise with. She's very human, has flaws but is determined. She's not averse to a handsome face either! Her inner sadness and pain go a long way to make her who she is today and certainly impact upon her investigations. 

Sharp, precise and with a real sense of place, The Commandments is a novel that I found both compelling and fascinating. The author is never afraid to deal with dark issues, and he does it very well. Although I had my suspicions throughout the story, I didn't get it quite right, and I like that. I enjoy being taken on ride, especially one as clever as this one.  

A welcome addition to the Icelandic crime fiction scene.

Óskar was born in Reykjavík in 1965. He's written stories since his teenage years, but it wasn't until
2011 that he decided to write his first novel – the criminal thriller HILMA.

“For me it was now or never. I would never be at peace with myself until I had taken this step. Previously I'd only written anything when my so called “spirit” was present, but this time I wanted to test it, the “spirit”...and myself. Could I sit for x hours a day without my “spirit” being present?”

Turns out he could. Óskar sat and wrote for the next 3 years, with the end result being the novel HILMA which was released in April 2015 to fantastic reviews. It rocketed to the top of the Icelandic bestseller charts.

“It was a tough process. Not the writing itself, because I loved creating characters, settings, environments, opposites, threats and feelings. I found this captivating tension and the passion to write the reader himself into these circumstances. Have him be there with everyone's feelings, thoughts and sounds. To put the reader in the shoes of those I'm writing about. In that regard I don't care on what road the characters are on – redemption or damnation, it's the journey that counts. The hard part is that I have to dive deep for these things, both into myself and into others, and that was often a gruesome task.”

Before HILMA was even published, a film production company approached Óskar and purchased the film rights to the novel. Þórómar Jónsson will direct and Ottó Geir Borg is adapting a screenplay from the novel.

Hilma is a two-part novel and Óskar has already started work on the eagerly awaited second part, though it is not a direct sequel to Hilma.
Óskar Guðmundsson on Facebook

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