Book Review: The Haunting of Reykjavík

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This is clearly an attempt at giving the old fashioned collection of ghost stories a new twist. It has the requisite spooky artwork; grasping hands looming out of focus, shadowy figures and atmospheric landscapes. Oh, and a cappuccino with a skull imprinted in its froth. No, really.

I was really looking forward to this book by Steinar Bragi. I’ve heard a few Icelandic ghost stories in my time, and unlike the ones I’m used to in the U.K., they are often more intricate and sinister. Not so here. There are a few good yarns, but others are so half-hearted that they leave the reader feeling as if this book was a struggle to fill.

Móakotslind Spring is included, for example, for being the source of an outbreak of typhoid fever in 1906 resulting in 98 residents dying as a result. There is no ‘haunting’ here, just a tragic tale that does not deserve to so glibly included amongst such tall tales.

Then there is a mawkish tale of a horse being butchered for meat, and then subsequently turning up in the purchasers dreams. I mean, is that all you’ve got?

Other stories seem more authentic, but would have perhaps been better left in the caring hands of the families to whom they belong, rather than being brought out kicking and screaming into the daylight in this book.

All in all, this feels like the old standard ‘all filler, no killer’ that reviewers used to use for rock albums. It is especially apt here.

2/5

Originally published on Iceland Review online.

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