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Fairly light but still a page turner,
This review is from: Operation Napoleon (Hardcover)I imagine most people who are interested in this book have come to it because they discovered Indridason's "Erlendur" novels, and they are keen to read anything else they can find by him. That is certainly the reason I picked up Operation Napoleon.
Operation Napoleon isn't terrible, and I powered my way through it fairly well, but if you're expecting the artistry and the low-key but shattering emotional impact of the Erlendur books, you're going to be disappointed. This is a start to finish "thriller" novel, and not really a very good one.
The "MacGuffin" (to use Hitchcock's term) of this book are the secret WW II papers that have lain inside a German airplane in an Icelandic glacier for 50 years. I won't tell you what the papers reveal, but they are pretty interesting - the "MacGuffin" Indridason dreams up for this book is a pretty good one.
The main character, Kristin, is also pretty good. You like her as a protagonist, which isn't always necessary, but which helps.
The problem for me is that a lot of things in this book are kind of ridiculous, or half-baked. Near the end of the novel the main bad guy stabs Kristin in the side with an awl, and the wound is described as "at least 10 cm deep". After this scene however, we follow Kristin through another chapter where the wound isn't even referred to, and when Indridason remembers that he has had Kristin stabbed, he sweeps it under the rug by saying that it was a closed-puncture (or something like that). Another thing he seems to have forgotten about is earlier in the book when the bad guys torture a librarian character who tells them that Kristin and Steve (her partner through most of this book) will be heading down to the shore to borrow his boat and take it to a certain coastal area where they'll get out and find a ride. So basically - the bad guys get exactly the information they need to find Kristin and Steve, but then we read about Kristin and Steve using this boat, and going to this coastal area, and the bad guys are nowhere to be found, as though Indridason decided he didn't want to write some scene where they narrowly escape the bad guys on the boat. Why not go back and rewrite the librarian torture scene and get rid of the fact that the librarian had given the bad guys this information?
Another very integral oddity for me is the fact that Kristin gets involved in this big mess, evades the bad guys with several narrow escapes in Reykjavik, but then she decides to head straight to the glacier where all the bad guys are working, and virtually turn herself over to the people that she's been trying so hard to escape? Really?
And lastly, there are a few things about the translation that made me chuckle a bit. One apartment is described as having all the "mod cons" - does anybody really say this? Does anybody actually use the phrase "modern conveniences" at all? There are other instances like this that made me think that the translator (despite her very Anglo name) had a slightly odd connection to the English language.
Anyway - all in all, this really comes off as a novel that Indridason wrote early in his writing life, and then left in his filing cabinet while he turned to the Erlendur material. Once the Erlendur stuff took off, his publishers said "you're hot right now, do you have anything else we can publish and get into the stores?" so Indridason gave them this old novel without bothering to look at it again and improve it. That's just the way the novel came off for me.