Walpurgis Tide

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By Jógvan Isaksen; translated by John Keithsson; reviewed by Jeannette Hartman

The paint is scarcely dry in Hannis Martinsson’s new attic office in the Faroes when he has a visitor.

Hannis is primarily a journalist who has been living in Denmark. He has a talent for finding out things. He plans to use that talent as a private investigator.

His visitor, Mark Robbins, is tall, British, arrogant and dressed in expensively tailored clothes. Robbins announces that he works for Guardians of the Sea (GOS). They will pay Hannis well to find out who is responsible for the murders of two young GOS employees. Their bodies were found among dead whales after a traditional grindadráp or whale hunt.
Robbins makes it clear that he is not making a request. If Hannis refuses to take the assignment, GOS will use its resources, social media and fake news sites to launch an international boycott of the Faroese fishing industry and to discourage oil companies from seeking to develop oil in the islands.
Thus the stage is set for a mystery caught in the middle of Faroese culture and traditions, environmental extremists, economic development and commercial greed. For the slightly more than 53,000 people living on the string of Faroes Islands on about 540 square miles, balancing these competing interests means the difference between survival or extinction as an independent country and culture.
The controversial grindadráp is an apt symbol. Once a critical food source, today the oceans are so polluted with mercury that whale meat can only be eaten occasionally. Environmentalists and animal rights activists abhor the practice, but it is part of the history, culture and identity of the Faroes.

Hardly has Hannis agreed under duress to accept Robbins’ assignment than Robbins’ departing plane explodes. Hannis’ office and home are burglarized and he is shot at on several occasions.

Multiple mysteries are layered here with a lot of interesting information about life in the Faroes. The setting of WALPURGIS TIDE has much in common with Ann Cleeve’s Shetland mysteries.

About the Author: Jógvan Isaksen (1950 – )

Jógvan Isaksen is a Faroese writer and literary historian.  His best known for his crime novels and a book about Faroese literature. He is the head of the Farose publiction house Mentunargrunnur Studentafelagsins, which publishes Faroese books and is the oldest Faroese publishing house (founded in 1910).

After graduating from high school in 1970, Isaksen moved to Denmark to study Nordic philology at Aarhus University. He earned a master’s degree in Scandinavian literartur science in 1982. He has taught Faroese language and literature at the University of Copenhagen since 1986. In 2000, he became the primary editor of the magazine Nordisk litteratur, put out by the Nordic Council.

He started working as a writer in 1978. In addition to his popular crime novels, he has written children’s books and books about Faroese writers and literature. His work has been honor with the Faroese Literature Prize in 1994 and a Faroese government prize in 2006.



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