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New Magnus crime novel out: Whale Fjord

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  My new Magnus novel is published! It's called Whale Fjord and is number 7 in the series after Death in Dalvik. Iceland 1940 . Britain invades Iceland. Lieutenant Tom Marks is a British officer tasked with defending Whale Fjord. He meets Kristín, a young widow from a nearby farm, who has a small son. Tom is smitten. Iceland 2023 . Inspector Magnus Ragnarsson is called to the shores of Whale Fjord where the skeletons of a man and a woman have been discovered, both shot with British wartime bullets. Magnus uncovers a web of anger and revenge that stretches back eighty years and forward to a shocking murder in Reykjavík. 'Magnus is a complex and totally compelling character, fitting perfectly into the bleak and intimidating settings of Ridpath’s Iceland.’ – New York Journal of Books The book will be available worldwide, in paperback or as an ebook through Kindle (only). The ebook price is £2.99/$3.99 for the next week or so, but will go up to £3.99/$5.99 after that. This is th

World War Two in Iceland: the Subject for a New Book

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Very few people outside Iceland realize that Britain occupied the country in 1940; I certainly hadn’t heard of it until I started writing novels set there. Royal Marines landed in Reykjavík in May that year and they were soon relieved by the British territorial 49th Division from Yorkshire – nicknamed ‘the Polar Bears’ – and a Canadian brigade including the exotically named Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa and Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal.  At its height, at the end of 1940, there were over 25,000 British and Canadian troops defending the country. This has always seemed odd to me – I would have thought they could more usefully have defended Britain from the Germans just across the Channel. But Major-General Curtis, the commanding officer in Iceland, was adamant they were needed. No one thought to check with the Royal Navy, who were equally certain the Germans could never have transported an invading force to Iceland and, more importantly, supplied it once it had landed.  In the summer of 194

Winter in Iceland

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The higher the latitude, the greater the difference between summer and winter. Iceland is only just below the Arctic Circle, so in midwinter it is dark nearly all the time. Daylight is only a few hours. In practice dawn turns into dusk at lunchtime.  As you can imagine, this has a depressing effect on locals. They go to work in the dark; they come home in the dark. It was even worse in the old days when most Icelanders lived on isolated farms. They essentially stayed indoors all winter in their living quarters above the animals whose heat kept them warm. They knitted, they read, they milked the cow, they moved hay about. They hibernated. Because of its proximity to the Arctic Circle, in theory, the sun is visible for a short period every day in Iceland, even at midwinter. But that is not true for the town of Ísafjördur in the West Fjords, which is wedged between high mountains. There they last see the sun on 16 November and it returns on 25 January. They have sólarkaffi - coffee and

Iceland blows its top. Again.

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  Iceland blew its top last week. And then it calmed down. This was the third eruption on the Reykjanes Peninsula in the last three years. It was the most spectacular – and the briefest – to date. The volcano erupted on the evening of 18th December. Rather than a classic conical volcano, this eruption site is a four-kilometre-long fissure which threw a wall of fire into the air and spewed lava over the mountainside. Within twenty-four hours the ferocity of the eruption had diminished and it was declared over after only three days. The first eruption, at nearby Fagradalsfjall , lasted months. photo AFP/Viken Kantarci Grindavík The site is only three kilometres from Grindavík – see photo above. The fissure actually stretches under the centre of the town and for a couple of days in early November, it looked as if Grindavík itself might erupt. That doesn’t mean lava flowing down onto the town like it did at Herculaneum, say, but rather lava bursting up from beneath the streets and ho

A Five-Day Iceland Itinerary

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  For years, a group of old friends, who have also been loyal readers of my books, have been asking me to show them around Iceland. I promised I would one day, and this year I decided to take the plunge. If not now, when? So I drew up an itinerary for the eight of us – four couples - and we went at the beginning of October. The trip worked very well. And since readers often ask me to suggest places to visit in Iceland, I thought I would share the itinerary with you. There were some important decisions to be made first. When to go? Iceland gets very crowded in July and August and the weather isn’t very good anyway. It’s dark in winter. For a land with no trees, the autumn colours can be quite spectacular . So we chose early October. How long to go for? There would be plenty to see on a two-week trip to Iceland, but it would also be expensive. So we settled on five days. What about Reykjavik? Once again, there is plenty to see in Reykjavik, but we decided since we had limite

Snow in Iceland

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  The weather in Iceland is terrible. But then it changes. A perfect example of this was my research trip to Saudárkrókur in northern Iceland in November 2016. It was snowing hard in Reykjavík. I only had four days to get to Saudárkrókur and back, a distance of about three hundred kilometres there and three hundred kilometres back, and I was worried. According to the government website , road travel was not recommended. You don’t argue with Icelanders on the subject of snow: if they say it’s too bad to drive, it’s too bad to drive. I lost a day, spent in the snow in Reykjavík. The following morning, at about 10 a.m., the website advice changed to a go. So I went. The first hundred kilometres along the Ring Road were fine. I passed the windy headland by Borgarnes successfully, and drove north through the snow.  Then the road climbed to the notorious Holtavörduheidi, the highlands between the west and the north of Iceland. People lost their way and died trying

Weather in Iceland: If you don't like it, wait ten minutes and try again

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The weather in Reykjavík is uninspiring. Winters are about the same temperature as Hamburg, but summers don’t get as warm. It is milder than you would think in winter: the temperature only dips a few degrees below zero, nothing like the freezes felt in Chicago or Moscow, which are much further south. Trouble is, it doesn’t get that warm in summer: temperatures rarely rise above 15 °C - the average high is only 13 °C in July. The real problem is the wind and the rain. Rain comes in many different forms. When it rains hard, it can feel like someone pouring a bucket of water on your head. Or it can feel like someone throwing a bucket of water at you from the pavement, if it’s windy. No umbrella has been known to survive in Iceland: they die rapidly , torn to shreds by the wind. There are two ways of dealing with the wind. One is to face directly into it and lean. The other is to stay inside and read a book. However, they say that if you don’t like the weather in Reykjav