Published: Lightning Books (November 2019)
‘The founder of the modern Norwegian crime novel’ – Jo Nesbo
A SUNDAY TIMES CRIME CLUB PICK
Translated by Lucy Moffatt, winner of the Norwegian Literature Abroad Translator’s Award 2020
On a blazing hot summer’s day, holidaymakers at a guesthouse on a Norwegian island are shocked to discover that a fellow guest has been found murdered on a desolate plain. The nameless narrator, an author, was the last person to see the victim alive; shortly afterwards, he is disturbed by a noise like ‘a rattling of chains’. A local tells him this is ‘the iron chariot’, which is said to presage death.
Detective Asbjørn Krag is summoned from the capital, Kristiania, and sets about investigating the murder. When a similar death occurs on the plain, it is again preceded by the eerie sound of the iron chariot, which leaves no tracks. Mystery is added to mystery when the victim turns out to be a man believed to have died several years earlier.
Drawn unwillingly into the investigation, the narrator is puzzled by the enigmatic detective’s apparent inaction, and troubled by unfolding events. These begin to take a toll on his mental wellbeing and he sinks into a state of dread, exacerbated by mysterious happenings at the cabin where he is staying.
So profound is his unease that he feels he must leave the island. Then Krag promises to tell him the solution to the mystery…
‘This is a classic Norwegian crime story. It was written over 100 years ago. Riverton is regarded as the founder of the modern Norwegian crime novel and he is a great writer’
‘A tale of haunting psychological terror: among the best crime novels ever written’
‘Taut with tension and paranoia – a paradise disturbed by the most brutal of acts’
‘Despite its age, it does not feel dated. Lucy Moffatt’s seamless contemporary translation, true to the original style, renders with clarity the atmospheric, almost gothic, setting’
‘A clever blend of gothic suspense – all swirling mists and the melancholia of the midnight sun – and the art of intertwined plots, in which sleight of hand and deductive reasoning simultaneously confound and reward the reader’
‘The emphasis is on the intricate detective work, the quirky private investigator and the thrilling suspense. Little wonder that this literary gem and its author inspired the creation of the Riverton Prize, given annually to the best Norwegian crime novel’
‘In many ways this is an archetypal Golden Age of Detection novel, a good decade short of the form’s beginning’
‘A sultry premonition of the coming Golden Age’
‘This is a clever little novel and it is easy to see how it captured the imagination 100 years ago, and still entertains today’
‘A perfect choice if you want a book with a truly spooky element (because it is very eerie) but nonetheless want something more easy – cosy – to read as well’
‘A superb mystery, with stacks of atmosphere and psychology’
‘A gorgeous read within a claustrophobic, haunting setting. Riverton twists the plot intelligently through to an excellent conclusion. Terrific. Recommended’
‘A slightly Gothic and certainly tense read with marvellous, bizarre, brooding dread’
‘Fascinating and captivating. I can understand why it has been voted the greatest Norwegian crime novel’
The Observer reports on Lucy Moffatt’s behind-the-scenes research for her translation of The Iron Chariot
Lucy Moffatt won the Norwegian Literature Abroad (NORLA) Translator’s Award 2020 for a body of work which includes her English version of The Iron Chariot. This short film from NORLA celebrates that work.