“Djevulsfjord. Devil’s Fjord. It didn’t get that name by accident.”
Tristan and Elsebeth are a late middle-aged childless couple who love each other deeply. For medical reasons Tristan has had to give up his office job with the police service and has recently taken up the post of District Sheriff in the remote fishing village of Djevulsfjord (Devil’s Fjord) on the island of Vágar in the Faroe Island archipelago in Denmark.
What they expected of their semi-retirement is not at all what they are faced with. The locals view them with mistrust, the archaic and gruesome way of life tests their stamina, their ethics, and their views of the world.
For one thing, they didn’t anticipate the enormity or the distress of witnessing the ‘grind‘, an ancient and gruesome practice whereby the fishermen herd pilot whales into the harbour with their boats. When beached, they slaughter the whales until the sea turns red with blood. The simple villagers use the whales for sustenance over the long and brutal winter.
A local woman, Alba Mikkelsen, is forefront in this novel. Mother to two young boys, Alba has led a tragic life. Her eldest boy, Benji, has learning disabilities and is bullied and tortured by his younger, wily, brother Jonas. Her husband has left her, and she is poor bordering on destitute.
When Alba’s two boys go missing after the grind, the dynamic of the village is changed.
The local policewoman, Hanna Olsen, a young and vital woman, chose to work in this backward community to search for her brother who went missing there.
Tristan Haraldsen discovers that his predecessor was killed under suspicious circumstances.
There are secrets held here in the Devil’s Fjord. Secrets that will impact Tristan and Elsebeth’s future life.
Set in an obscure, remote fishing village in the Faroe Islands, this is a crime novel with a difference. The setting, the insular community, and the barbaric and gruesome traditions of the people will stick in my mind forever.
This is bleak and often disturbing Nordic Noir which has been rendered expertly by the author. The slow revelation of the crimes committed in this remote community was done with a skill that chills the reader.
The brutal and violent way of life was one that leaves an indelible imprint on the mind of the reader. The horrific grind with the slaughter of hundreds of pilot whales, the killing of the charming little puffin birds for food, the insular lifestyle, ridden with hardships, the almost feudal society with a ‘company store’ type general store, and a corrupt police superintendent was unforgettable.
The inequality of the society was chilling. The hard-working poor fisher-folk, and the unfeeling and tyrannical general store owners, the Thomsens, was disturbing indeed.
The crimes, the devious cover-ups, were all alien to the small village who rarely experienced crime of any type.
Crime fiction lovers will relish the criminal aspects of this book. I recommend this novel with some reservations. The graphic descriptions of the violence against animals will prohibit some readers from fully enjoying the book.
Would I read another novel by this author? Definitely.This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Canongate Books via NetGalley.
Publication date: August 5, 2021 Publisher: Canongate Books
ISBN: 9781838853761 ASIN: B08V96VQ3G 384 pages
David Hewson is the author of more than 20 published novels including the Pieter Vos series set in Amsterdam and the Nic Costa books set in Rome. His acclaimed book adaptations of The Killing television series were published around the world. His audio adaptations of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Hamlet with A.J. Hartley, narrated by Alan Cumming and Richard Armitage respectively, were both shortlisted for Audie Awards.
A former journalist with the Sunday Times, Independent and The Times he lives in Kent.