Readers of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings know the legend of the “One Ring” and its destruction on Mordor, but what if those legends were inspired by actual events? What if they were based on the lore of a long-lost Icelandic Saga? That is the premise of Where the Shadows Lie, the first book in Michael Ridpath’s Fire and Ice series featuring detective Magnus Jonson.

That hook alone will be enough to get crime fiction fans (and their fantasy-loving counterparts) to pick up Where the Shadows Lie, but there is so much more to appreciate about Michael Ridpath’s 2010 novel.

Magnus Jonson was born in Iceland, but has been living in Boston for quite some time now. Unfortunately for Magnus (and his girlfriend), his police work has raised the ire of a Dominican gang hellbent on silencing Magnus before he can testify at the trial to convict their kingpin. As a way of keeping him safe, the Boston PD is “loaning” Magnus to the Icelandic authorities. Because that nation as limited violent crime, it is thought that they could learn about those investigative techniques from Magnus, whose American police work virtually centers around such crimes. Coincidentally, the Icelandic Police are about to embark on a rare murder inquiry.

Agnar Haraldsson is a professor specializing in Old Icelandic literature – in particular the Sagas that are so important to this island nation. His death is both shocking and confounding. Who would want to kill an elderly university professor? As their investigation attempts to sort through the various threads of connection, the notion of a never-before-seen Saga having been discovered takes hold. Could something from ancient times be responsible for a modern-day murder?

While Where the Shadows Lie very much centers Magnus Jonson – the launch of a series in which he will play the lead role – Ridpath fleshes out other members of the Icelandic police department. Besides a prickly boss (why is there always one of those…?), readers also meet Árni, the young partner assigned to shadow Magnus; Vigdís, a black woman who refuses to allow the color of her skin to stand in the way of her career ambitions; and a few others. There is also a plethora of suspects and persons of interest related to the murder inquiry, some of whom play vital roles in the outcome of the case and/or in the personal life of Magnus.

Meanwhile, since Magnus was unable to convince his girlfriend to travel to Iceland with him, he has the added stress of worrying about her safety. Little does he know, that simple act of leaving her behind now threatens the exposure of his hiding place to the Dominican gang’s hired assassin.

Michael Ridpath does an excellent job of capitalizing on Magnus Jonson’s feelings of being an outsider in a country he left long ago. This technique helps to accommodate for the reader’s lack of Icelandic knowledge as well. Both reader and character can acclimate to this new environment together. The landscape of Iceland comes alive as the investigation winds through the various communities from Reykjavik to Flúdir to such iconic sites as Gullfoss, Thingvellir Lake, and Mount Hekla (aka Mouth of Hell) itself.

As mentioned, this is only the first in the Fire and Ice series, so readers who enjoy Where the Shadows Lie have many more adventures on which to accompany Magnus Jonson.

BUY LINKS: Where the Shadows Lie by Michael Ridpath