Fiction Book Reviews

Crime | The Iron Chariot | Stein Riverton

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We’re delighted to be sharing Laura’s thoughts on The Iron Chariot by Stein Riverton and translated by Lucy Moffatt.

First published in Norway in 1909, the plot anticipates a supposedly ground-breaking twist of Agatha Christie’s by nearly twenty years and is now available for the first time in English-language paperback.


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…

Book cover for The Iron Chariot by Stein Riverton.

The Iron Chariot by Stein Riverton is published by Lightening Books and is available to purchase in digital, paperback and audiobook formats.

Review

I thoroughly enjoyed this fascinating and captivating crime novel. Written by Norwegian author and journalist Stein Riverton in 1909 and translated by Lucy Moffat. I was impressed and can understand why it has been voted the greatest Norwegian crime novel.

 Set in the summer in 1908 at a beautiful hotel resort on the Southern coast of Norway where a forestry agent, Blonde was found murdered. Detective Krag during his investigations discovers jealously, crime, murder and folk tales of the Iron Chariot, a phantom wagon which leaves no tracks.

I enjoyed that the narrator is an anonymous guest at the hotel and that there are twists and turns involved with this character. The setting is described beautifully.

 A highly recommended read.

Jera's Jamboree

Author Stein Riverton

Stein Riverton was born Kristoffer Elvestad Svensen in a small Norwegian town near the Swedish border in 1884. After being caught embezzling money as a young office boy, he changed his name to Sven Elvestad and moved to Kristiania (Oslo) to start a new life as a journalist. He became notable for his stunts as a reporter, including spending a day in a circus lion’s cage. He was also the first foreign reporter to interview Adolf Hitler.

Under the pen name Stein Riverton, he wrote a series of crime novels featuring the retired police detective Asbjørn Krag. Published in 1909, Jernvognen (The Iron Chariot) is regarded as his masterpiece. He died in 1934.

The Riverton Prize, awarded annually to the best Norwegian crime story, is named after him.

I've been blogging about my interests at Jera's Jamboree for 8+ years. My love of reading, crocheting and being out in nature are all things that help me unwind from my role as an Inclusion Lead in a primary school. I'm passionate about early help and sharing strategies with families to empower and help build resilience. I'm a member of of my Local Authority's Early Help Operational Board, working alongside other professionals to instigate change and growth.