Arnaldur Turns to History, Not Crime, This Christmas Skip to content
Photo: Heike Huslage-Koch, CC0 Creative Commons.

Arnaldur Turns to History, Not Crime, This Christmas

World-famous author Arnaldur Indriðason will not be putting out a new crime novel during this year’s jólabókaflóð, or Christmas Book Flood, reports. Arnaldur has released a new book every November 1st for the last 24 years, and his crime novels—whether they star Detectives Erlendur, Konráð, or Flovent and Thorson—are a particularly popular part of the season. This year, however, Arnaldur is trying something new and releasing a work of historical fiction.

Many of Arnaldur’s novels are set in the past, but on top of being distinctly un-criminal in nature, his new book, Sigurverkið (a title which can mean both ‘Winning Entry’ and ‘Watchworks’) moves to an entirely new era. It takes place in the southern part of the Westfjords in Iceland and Copenhagen, Denmark during the 18th century and tells the story of Jón Sívertsen, an Icelandic watchmaker working in a Danish palace to restore magnificent, old clock. One day, the King himself, Christian VII, comes into the Jón’s workshop. Although still king in name, Christian, who suffers from mental illness, has been sidelined by his son and court. In the course of their conversation, Jón tells Christian about his father and foster mother, who were killed at the behest of the previous monarch.

In his interview with Morgunblaðið, Arnaldur said that the idea for the story “came to me very suddenly. I got the idea for the book last summer and immediately sat down to write and finished it in about six months.” The book takes inspiration from real people and events, although Arnaldur has combined and refigured details to suit his narrative. And as the era is not one that he’s written before, he enlisted the assistance of a historian while writing. “It was a lot of fun for me to write about the 18th century because it is, of course, a new arena for me as an author, but it’s also an interesting possibly new arena for contemporary Icelandic literature.”

Arnaldur says that he wants to continue to surprise himself as a writer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll be writing a lot more historical fiction from here on out. He’s not sure what the future holds on that count but will be making a return to crime fiction soon. “Konráð, the rather skewed protagonist of my last books, will be in full swing next Christmas,” he said. “That I can I promise.”

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