Iceland’s thriller-loving prime minister writes his first crime novel

Iceland’s thriller-loving prime minister writes his first crime novel


Like many around the world, Iceland’s Prime Minister devoted herself to her hobby during the pandemic. Now the thriller she co-wrote with one of Iceland’s most popular authors is out.

“Obviously it’s not something I thought I had time for,” Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir, 46, told AFP this week at a book launch event.

But it’s “quite liberating to be working on this project during Covid,” she said. “I don’t have any other interests, that’s my interest,” she added, laughing.

Co-written with Ragnar Jonasson, bestselling author of the Dark Iceland series, the thriller, titled Reykjavik, is set in 1986, a pivotal year in Iceland’s modern history.

The idea that a prime minister would have enough free time to write a novel may sound absurd in most countries, but not in Iceland.

The nation of 375,000 people has a strong tradition of reading and writing literature, with one in ten Icelanders publishing a book in their lifetime, according to statistics.

Nor is it a first for an incumbent prime minister: Jakobsdottir’s predecessor, David Oddsson, published a novel in 1997 during his tenure.

– A “therapeutic genre” –

“I think every politician needs something to distract themselves from day-to-day political business,” said Jakobsdottir.

She holds a Master of Arts from the University of Iceland in Icelandic Literature. Her thesis was on the work of popular Icelandic crime writer Arnaldur Indridason.

“I’ve read crime fiction my whole life, so it’s kind of in my DNA,” she said. “I read fiction every day.”

Crime novels, in particular, are “a bit like psychotherapy,” she added.

“It’s really about solving crimes and finding justice, so it’s a very therapeutic genre for me.”

Jakobsdottir and Jonasson came up with the idea of ??writing a book together over lunch in January 2020.

“I was a bit surprised at first that she agreed to this proposal because she’s very busy,” Jonasson said.

The two are old friends and 10 years ago had served together on a jury to select the best crime novel translated into Iceland.

It took them two years to write their book, with Jakobsdottir’s busy schedule often setting the pace.

“We had to schedule calls and meetings in between as she was meeting with (former British Prime Minister) Boris Johnson one day and Macron with (French President Emmanuel) the other,” Jonasson recalled.

“It was pretty surreal for me to work in this environment,” said the 46-year-old, who has sold three million books worldwide.

– ‘Reminds me of Agatha Christie’ –

Jonasson, used to writing alone and being in total control, said the experience of working with someone else was better than he expected.

“It was refreshing to have someone to compromise with,” he said.

“Reykjavik” tells the story of an unsolved case of a teenage girl who went missing 30 years ago on Videy, a small island near the Icelandic capital. Valur, a journalist with a local tabloid, dives into the case to get on the lead.

The events take place in 1986, when Reykjavik celebrates its 200th anniversary, launches its first commercial radio and television stations, and hosts a historic summit between US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

“We thought that all of these events combined would make the best backdrop for a story,” Jonasson said. He and Jakobsdottir did a lot of research to add details to the plot such as popular music, TV shows and films from the period.

Jakobsdottir expects critics to be harsh on her.

“I think I can handle that. I have experience as a politician, so it’s okay.”

But Egill Helgason, who has been moderating the book show “Kiljan” on the public broadcaster RUV for 15 years, finds the thriller “well written and well researched”.

“It’s a very enjoyable read…” he told AFP. “Reminds me a bit of Agatha Christie.

“This is a mystery, not a blood-soaked horror story.”

“Reykjavik” was released in Iceland on October 25th and is due to be translated into several languages. It is slated for release in August 2023 in the UK and US and autumn 2023 in France, Jonasson’s largest market.

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