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The Flatey Enigma Paperback – February 21, 2012

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Editorial Reviews Review

The Icelandic Isle of Flatey (Click on thumbnails for larger images)

Situated in the middle of Iceland’s Breidafjordur, a large shallow bay encircled by mountains and glaciers, the island of Flatey was a center of Icelandic cultural life in the 13th Century when the medieval manuscript the Flateyjarbók, or Book of Flatey, was constructed. A sparsely populated island that subsisted on seal meat, fishing, and the harvesting of down, author Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson spent his summers on the island as a child and it is this familiarity with the island’s peculiarities, remoteness, and harsh winter climate that made it the perfect setting for his gripping thriller about a series of murders with a mysterious connection to an enigmatic riddle written around the island’s Book of Flatey. Take a peek at the scenery of Flatey below.

A map of the Breidafjordur in Iceland.
The author on the island in 1957.
A local cleaning seal pups after the hunt.

The oldest and smallest library in Iceland (est. 1836) is located on the island of Flatey, behind the church.
Flatey's tiny library is where the facsimile of the Book of Flatey is housed.
Inside the library.


"Spiced up with colorful characters, their fallacies and superstitions, the book is a joy to read with the solution to the mystery being simple yet surprising. Lovers of both crime novels and historical novels will have a field day with The Flatey Enigma as it is a combination of both and I’d also recommend it to those interested in Icelandic culture and the sagas." -- IcelandReview.Com (August 26, 2013)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: AmazonCrossingEnglish; Tra edition (February 21, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1611090970
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611090970
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (139 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #389,364 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson was born in Akureyri in the north of Iceland on April 12, 1955. He finished his in civil engineering from The Icelandic College of Engineering and Technology (ICET), in 1983. He has taken courses in script writing run by the Icelandic Film Producers and at the Institute for Continuing Education at the University of Iceland. In 1990 and again in 1995 Ingolfsson attended classes in Public Relations at the George Washington University in Washington DC. Ingolfsson started working for the Icelandic Road Administration during his summer vacations from school 1969, and has worked there full time since 1983. Since 1985 he has supervised the institution's publications and contributed to Public Relations.

Viktor Arnar has published six mysteries, the fifth of which, "Daybreak" in 2005, was the basis for the Icelandic TV series "Hunting Men," which premiered in 2008. His short stories have appeared in magazines and collections. His third novel, "Engin Spor" ("House of Evidence"), was nominated for the Glass Key prize, an award given by the Crime Writers Association of Scandinavia, in 2001, and "Flateyjargáta" ("The Flatey Enigma") was nominated for the same prize in 2004.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

151 of 152 people found the following review helpful By Luckyclucker TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 15, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book was definitely a difficult read to complete. I think it is the most "foreign" feeling book I've ever read.

Let me explain what I mean by "foreign feeling". I've enjoyed fiction from South Africa, Europe, South America, North America and books written in the distant past. I'm a foreigner living in a foreign country and I've lived in Africa and North and Central America. So, what's my point? My point is that I've been exposed to a perspective or two. But I have not encountered writing that depicts a social structure as strange as this book presents.

The book is set in 1960 and follows the death of several people on a remote island called Flatey (a real place). Each chapter ends with a separate running dialogue that deals with the text of an ancient Icelandic epic. The chapters are very short, some no more than 2 sides of a page. The vignettes in the epic portions are bizarre, violent, & crude-- just what you'd expect from an ancient epic of a warlike people (not so different from the better-known Norse tales, Greek epics, and Beowulf).

There doesn't seem to be any single main character, only a couple who get more exposure than the others. And we're talking some very weird characters, behaving in simple ways but motivated by bizarre impulses. Aaargg!! I'd like to say more about a couple characters, but I can't without ruining the story.

The dialogue veers between stilted and extremely simple to hip and pretty funny at times. The first third of the book seemed to really dwell on food. And talk about some interesting food. I grew up on a fishery and thought we ate some pretty disgusting stuff. The stuff in this book goes to a new level-- fermented ray, fermented shark, puffin breast, baby seal fat, and on and on.
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73 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on February 7, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Nordic mythology is in a whole realm of it's own, and I greatly admire any author who would take it on and make it a center for a modern day (well, 60s/70s) mystery! I wasn't sure how it was going to be reading the book, as at the end of each chapter, the author had a bit of the mythology, and an answer to the questions that made up the Enigma puzzle. But after a few chapters in, I realized the modern story was interwoven in the clues, in a really intricate way, that made the story very interesting.

I found myself not wanting to put the book down, the characters and Icelandic territory were so well defined and described! In fact, I ended up finishing the book in 3 sittings, only because I slowed down and paid attention- there is SO much detail in the nuances of the story. Some of the scenes may be disturbing to some readers, as the author is graphic in telling seal hunting and slaying. AND before you go PETA on me, this was very allowable in this time period in Iceland, and they make use of everything, so it logical. I found myself wanting to race ahead to finish the who-dun-it, but knowing the pleasure of the read was waiting for the end. Agatha would be proud of Viktor- this is a tightly wrapped layered mystery! I highly recommend this story!
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64 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Pampered Prepper VINE VOICE on February 9, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
When I saw this book on my monthly Amazon Vine letter I thought mystery, vikings sure ill give it a shot. I normally love a good mystery with lots of action,suspense, maybe some romance....This book is NOT that.

Another reviewer had it right "if your a fan of modern formula driven mysteries or hard fast action this book will bore you to tears". Ohh man was he right I had to force myself to read it. Now that's not to say it wasn't a decent book. There are clues throughout the book that help hold interest.

A small Icelandic island where the most exciting thing that happens is the mail boats arrival. Then a body is found on the beach, but how is this possible when everyone knows who comes and goes. Then another body shows up and the situation revolving around this one is stranger then the last. The big question is who did it and what's the motive.

Like I said its very detailed and requires you to pay attention. Even though I didn't particularly care for this book if your someone who is into slow moving detailed mystery laced with mythology then this book is for you.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Marcia Proba on March 3, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Scandinavian crime genre offers many rewards for readers, but most of the stories I have read so far have very similar themes running through them. After a while the formula becomes familiar, like settling back in an old armchair that you have moulded to your comfort through countless hours of reading.

The Flatey Enigma gives a brief nod in the direction of that formula in the sub-story dealing with police procedures in Reykjavik, but the rest of the book is very different.

The action takes place mostly on the tiny island of Flatey in the Breidafiord Bay. Flatey in 1960 is a cold, bleak place with few resources, and its small community of inhabitants live close to subsistence level. They don't have the luxury of soft-eyed environmentalism that more affluent societies enjoy in 2012, so if you are likely to be upset by pragmatic descriptions of hunting and eating animals and birds more familiar to most of us in zoos than on the dinner plate, you might find some of the images disturbing.

The book starts with the discovery of a body on a deserted island, but the first few chapters are more concerned with description and atmosphere than action. In this, Viktor Ingolfsson's familiarity with the island and its culture comes through, with evocative images of an economically depressed but close-knit community well-used to the dangers of their unforgiving sea and climate, but now faced with an unpleasant intrusion. The development of atmosphere, not threatening but hauntingly bleak and spare and timeless, is unusual in urban crime stories, although familiar in other genres.

The thread weaving through the story, however, is the Flatey Book, a bound vellum collection of medieval (and very bloodthirsty) Viking stories.
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