Council (Helga Finnsdottir #2) by Snorri Kristjansson

CouncilCouncil is the second in the Helga Finnsdottir series and is another really good story that builds on the world and characters established in Kin.

I’m enjoying this series so far, the second book is undoubtedly different from the first in that Helga has now left the homestead but it continues in the same tone as the first which is something I really enjoyed. There’s a simplicity to the life here plus a casual brutality that is always threatening to break out which adds a layer of tension to the story and makes the pages turn all that much faster.

Taking place a few years after Kin we find Helga living in Uppsala as a healer.  She seems to be gaining something of a reputation for herself and is generally well respected.  Basically Helga is a young woman who pays attention, she notices things and figures out what they mean or how they relate to events and this makes her unique in many respects because most others simply don’t pay attention.  On top of that Helga has learned to keep her intelligence under wraps.  For the large part she is ignored by the men around her and she uses this to her advantage.

As the story begins the King is planning a Council in which the leaders of his tribes will meet.  This is a time of threat and the atmosphere is loaded with potential violence as the men take part in different bouts to demonstrate their strength.  There’s a lot of chest beating that eventually calms down as the real purpose of the meet is discussed but between times a young boy is discovered dead in a nearby field.  Helga is asked to take a look at the body and immediately determines that the boy’s death was not an accident.  Of course she has to tread very carefully, these are very superstitious times and it would be easy for any actions Helga takes to be misinterpreted.  To be honest it’s difficult to really go too much into the plot without giving away things so I’m going to leave it alone.  All I can really say is that Helga unwittingly finds herself as part of a delegation where everyone suspects everyone else and things become incredibly tense and rife with deceit.

What I’m really enjoying about this is the atmosphere and sense of place.  There’s a real starkness and brutality to the way of life and a simplicity that makes this a very unique murder mystery.  There are no crime scenes, no dusting for fingerprints, no forensics, no nothing really.  Just one young woman trying to look beyond the immediately obvious and draw conclusions about the whys and wherefores and on top of that there is the odd inkling of god-like interference which is very subtly worked into events.

Helga is a character that I’m really enjoying.  She makes mistakes and she can’t always puzzle things out quickly, which means as a reader you’re also in the dark. You only know as much as Helga does and if she is sometimes frustrated by the thoughts that won’t work their way loose then those feelings are sure to be the same for you as a reader.  Personally, I like that Helga struggles a little with making her deductions – it makes things more relatable somehow and adds to the air of mystery.

As well as Helga there are a number of other characters here, a character from her past who she is less than happy to see and also a romantic interest. But, many of the characters have their own motivations at heart and this helps to increase the feelings of mistrust between them all and create a real air of confusion.  There are also a number of twists and turns (some obvious, some not so much).  What I will say is that one of the characters is becoming a real thorn in Helga’s side and needs dealing with – that is all – well, that being said, I’d kind of like this character to pop up and cause trouble again if I’m going to be totally honest.  Sorry Helga.

In terms of criticisms.  Nothing major to report.  I think there was a point in the story where I felt events were lulling a little bit but then the action took off and pretty much didn’t relent until the conclusion – which brings me to my other little issue – this ends on something of a cliff hanger (which I’m not overly fond of).  It definitely makes me hankar after the next book all the more and thankfully these books have been published so far in a rather snappy fashion so fingers crossed that the next isn’t a lengthy wait.

Overall I think Council is a really good second instalment that sees the main character really grow having learnt some harsh life lessons.  It will be very interesting to see where Helga winds up next and I very much look forward to picking up the next instalment.

I received a copy courtesy of the publishers, through Netgalley, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

 

 

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Can’t Wait Wednesday : Council (Helga Finnsdottir #2) by Snorri Kristjansson

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : Council (Helga Finnsdottir #2) by Snorri Kristjansson.  This is the second book in the series, I really enjoyed the first book, Kin and my review is here.  Vikings and murder mystery – sign me up for that please

CouncilAfter five years on the road, Helga has finally settled near King Eirik’s court in Uppsala, where she’s well-regarded as a healer. She’s even in a relationship, of sorts.

But life is about to get a bit more exciting, for King Eirik has summoned all those who owe him fealty to the King’s Council and tempers are already flaring. The body of an unknown boy is found near the river, but with delegations from all over the country arriving and rumours of an imminent attack, there are more important things to attend to than the death of a nobody . . .

Only Helga suspects murder, until a second body makes it clear that someone is intent on breaking up the King’s Council – and that a traitor walks among them . .

Publication: May 2019

Kin (The Helga Finnsdottir #1) by Snorri Kristjansson

kinI thoroughly enjoyed Kin and thought it made a great start to what I’m presuming will become a murder mystery series featuring Helga Finnsdottir.  This is a murder mystery with a difference.  Set in Norway during the summertime of 970 this is a book with vikings.  But, calm your passions, the murders committed on the page don’t occur whilst plundering villages or out on the open seas.  Far from it.  The murders here are committed in the quiet of the homestead, with only family around, and virtually everyone is a suspect.

I’m not going to go into the plot because being a murder mystery it would be easy to spoil the outcome.  What I would say immediately is that I was completely swept away with this book.  I read it in one day because I couldn’t put it down.  It was a compelling read with a stark-like simplicity that was completely beguiling.

As the book begins we are introduced to Unnthor and Hildigunner and the other inhabitants of their homestead.  The farm itself is basically a longhouse, a few outbuildings, some animals and a small woodland.  This is a hard but honest existence, the days are filled with chores but there’s a clear happiness to the small family unit and their simple way of life.  Helga is the adopted daughter and Einar and his father complete the group.  However, the quiet simplicity of their lives is about to be transformed with the arrival of the rest of the family.  Unnthor has invited his children and their families back home for a meet.  You could be forgiven for thinking this would be a happy occasion and in some respects it is and yet there is an underlying current of tension that belies the excited expectations of such a gathering.

Unthor and Hildi have four children all now living away from home.  Three sons and a daughter. Karl has a streak of danger running through him.  He’s something of a brute and the sort of man who takes what he wants.  He’s no stranger to raids and the easy pickings they represent have given him an arrogant air of expectation.  His brother Bjorn is a positive giant of a man, he and Karl don’t get on and yet Bjorn has a certain quiet gentleness that makes him feel less of a threat than his brother.  Aslak is the third son, he doesn’t share the brute strength of his brothers, he’s more brains than brawn and his expectations lie more in the desire for a happy home.  Finally we have Jorunn.  She’s a clever woman.  Competitive and ambitious.  The four families descend on the farm, each of them with their own agenda and none of it bodes well, particularly given the rumours that their father is sitting on his own treasure hoard.  And then, of course, there is murder most foul and the inevitable realisation that the murderer is amongst them.  You can imagine how quickly the air becomes thick with fear and suspicion.  Finger pointing and bickering swiftly ensue but along with that a much more deadly threat.

It’s difficult to pin down what it is about this that really won me over.  Everything I suppose. The writing is clean and efficient, it does just what it needs to do with no unnecessary flourishes.  Everything is laid out with ease, the family dynamics and the lifestyles they all lead,  I felt like I knew the people.  Unnthor and Hildi are a formidable partnership.  They’ve raised their family with respect and fear and yet there’s almost a feeling of wolves waiting quietly to strike.  Unnthor’s strength is maybe not what it once was and although Hildi is a force to be reckoned with could it be that her children are becoming almost as sharp?  It almost has a feeling that they’re looking over their shoulders all the time.  What a horrible feeling knowing that your family seem to be waiting for you to weaken.

The place itself is really easy to picture.  There’s a breathtaking beauty about it, wide open skies and barren landscapes. And then we have a murder mystery.  Now, given the time period this is clearly not a police procedural style novel.  There’ll be no threat of prisons, or police called in to look for clues –  just brutal retribution for the murderer if discovered.  I think the really winning element of this for me is the unexpected way it turned into a whodunnit.  Don’t get me wrong, the writing style, the settings, the people the way of life – this isn’t Murder on the Orient Express – but it does have something in common in the way the story twists about until everyone has become a real suspect.  Basically my expectations were exceeded.  I was jumping about from person to person, suspecting all of them and only really making the discovery when the author intended me to do so.

In terms of criticisms.  They’re not really criticisms here so much as things that I would point out so that you go into the story forewarned.  It took me a little while to get all the family members and their respective partners and children straight in my own head but once I’d sorted them all out that wasn’t a problem – I would say it’s worth taking a few minutes to really figure out who’s who – otherwise the whole mystery element will be spoiled by the constant need to keep thinking back about how everyone is related.  Basically I took notes as I was going along – you might not need to resort to such means but I found it helped me to group everyone into their respective family knots.  There’s very little fantasy involved in the story – in fact the only element is the appearance of one of the Norse gods – and this could almost be whitewashed over as a flight or fancy on the part of Helga.  Did it really happen or did she just imagine it.  I suspect that Helga may have somebody watching over her and this may become more apparent in future books.  The lack of fantasy was clearly not a problem in my opinion but I point it out as the books I read usually have more swords and sorcery than not so I want to set expectations straight from the outset.  Finally, in spite of the era depicted this is told in a modern style.  Personally I loved this as I don’t want to struggle too much trying to make sense of olde worlde figures of speech and phraseology.  If you’re something of a history buff or are looking for a much more faithful depiction of the times then this might not be for you.  As it is, I loved the style, I felt like I got a really good look into the way of life without it becoming a work of art or over bearing to read.

I would definitely have no hesitation in recommending this and I look forward to seeing where Helga’s adventures lead us to next.

I received a copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

 

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Kin (The Helga Finnsdottir #1) by Snorri Kristjansson

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is: Kin (The Helga Finnsdottir #1) by Snorri Kristjansson

kinHe can deny it all he likes, but everyone knows Viking warlord Unnthor Reginsson brought home a great chest of gold when he retired from the longboats and settled down with Hildigunnur in a remote valley. Now, in the summer of 970, adopted daughter Helga is awaiting the arrival of her unknown siblings: dark, dangerous Karl, lithe, clever Jorunn, gentle Aslak, henpecked by his shrewish wife, and the giant Bjorn, made bitter by Volund, his idiot son.

And they’re coming with darkness in their hearts.

The siblings gather, bad blood simmers and old feuds resurface as Unnthor’s heirs make their moves on the old man’s treasure – until one morning Helga is awakened by screams. Blood has been shed: kin has been slain.

No one confesses, but all the clues point to one person – who cannot possibly be the murderer, at least in Helga’s eyes. But if she’s going to save the innocent from the axe and prevent more bloodshed, she’s got to solve the mystery – fast . . .

Due to be published March 8th 2018