Val McDermid: Getting the feel of Iceland through crime fiction

One of the biggest stars in the world of crime fiction, Val McDermid, will attend the Iceland Noir literary festival next week. Although none of her books have been translated to Icelandic, blood thirsty readers have sunk their teeth in her books in English or bitten their nails watching Wire in the Blood, a thrilling crime drama based on her series about police profiler Dr Tony Hill.

Val McDermid is a best-selling crime writer from Kirkcaldy, Fife. She was the first student from a state school in Scotland to attend St. Hilda’s College at the University of Oxford. Later she became a journalist before publishing her first crime novel in 1987 but still contributes to several British newspapers and sometimes broadcasts on BBC radio. She is co-founder of the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival and was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Sunderland in 2011.
Val McDermid is a best-selling crime writer from Kirkcaldy, Fife. She was the first student from a state school in Scotland to attend St. Hilda’s College at the University of Oxford. Later she became a journalist before publishing her first crime novel in 1987 but still contributes to several British newspapers and sometimes broadcasts on BBC radio. She is co-founder of the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival and was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Sunderland in 2011.

Val McDermid is a name that every crime fiction reader is familiar with. The Scottish queen of crime fiction has sold over 10 million books worldwide and soon, she will honour Icelandic fans by attending the third annual Iceland Noir festival taking place in Reykjavík 17-20 November. McDermid will be keynote speaker at the City Hall’s opening reception and then participate in no less than three panels. Accompanying her will be her long-term partner, professor Jo Sharp, as the trip will also be kind of a honeymoon for the couple.
“We had a civil partnership ceremony a couple of weeks ago so yes, it’s kind of a honeymoon but it’s also Jo’s birthday next week so I’m trying to persuade her it’s a bit of a birthday treat for her,” Val explains as she describes the small ceremony as lovely and intimate. “We had our friends and family there and, it’s a terrible cliché…but you really could feel the love.”

Val has been to Iceland once before, on holiday with her son a couple of years ago, and intends to revisit the Blue lagoon with Jo. “It’s not cold in the water; it was a really cold day when I was there with my son but the sun was shining and we stayed in the water a long time, it’s so nice.”

So she’s happy to be returning to Iceland? “Yes, I look forward to seeing a slightly different side to Reykjavík this time, not just as a tourist.” Despite her books having been translated to 30 languages, Iceland’s been “holding out” but Val suggests we could read some of them in Swedish, Norwegian or Danish. I chuckle and assure her that most Icelanders have likely read her books in English, not to mention watched Wire in the Blood which were extremely popular during their run. “Good, I’m glad about that,” says the 61-year-old author who made a cameo appearance in an episode in the first series. She continues writing about Dr Tony Hill and DCI Carol Jordan despite the TV drama having run its course, with the latest book having come out only last year.

“I enjoyed it [Trapped] very much. I thought it was very gripping and I liked the central character (played by Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) very much, he was very appealing, I thought. And the claustrophobic sense was interesting; they’re literally TRAPPED.”

But now, Val is not only coming to Iceland to discuss crime fiction but also participate in a panel about queer crime fiction specifically, even though her recent protagonists are not queer. “That’s how I started off actually; my first detective was a lesbian journalist. But, you know, I think pretty much all my books have gay/lesbian/transgender characters in them. I paint a landscape that includes queer but I don’t see my books as a vehicle for making any particular political point. The politics kind of fold into the books because those are my personal concerns and when you’re writing, your personal concerns invariably find their ways into the book. But I don’t think you win any hearts and minds by setting out with an agenda, I think you win hearts and minds by telling good stories that are populated with characters that we just care about.”

An avid fan of Nordic crime fiction since the late ‘70s, Val has enjoyed reading the books by Iceland’s very own Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Arnaldur Indriðason and Ragnar Jónasson. “I like the sense of getting inside a society, getting inside a culture, getting inside a country that otherwise we

Val supported the Icelandic men’s team in UEFA’s Euro 2016 by adopting an Icelandic patronymic surname on game days; the success of the team’s debut performance in an international tournament caught the attention of the football world and its win over England was exceptionally sweet for Scots. Photo: A screenshot of players Gylfi Sigurðsson and Aron Einar Gunnarsson.
Val supported the Icelandic men’s team in UEFA’s Euro 2016 by adopting an Icelandic patronymic surname on game days; the success of the team’s debut performance in an international tournament caught the attention of the football world and its win over England was exceptionally sweet for Scots. Photo: A screenshot of players Gylfi Sigurðsson and Aron Einar Gunnarsson.

tend not to know very much about. You know, Iceland doesn’t headline very often here, apart from the banking crisis obviously. We don’t tend to get a lot of news coverage from Iceland so as with lots of places, we get the sense of the culture from reading about it in fiction. In crime fiction, there is that sense of getting the feel of what Iceland is actually like…which might be completely wrong, of course,” she says and laughs. “I know for example that there are very, very few murders in Iceland!”

What she likes about Nordic crime fiction is that the stories are what she calls, organic. “What happens in the books is because of it’s THAT place, because of THAT society, because of THAT community, because of THAT climate. What your writers are writing about is integral to the world they live in, the cities they live in, the times they live in, the communities they’re drawn from. And I always find that all very interesting and it kind of, to some degree, colours the attitude I have to my own work.”

With Icelandic crime fiction being somewhat the baby in the family of Nordic noir, does Val notice much difference in the Icelandic style? “Obviously there are some differences because it’s a different country and a different culture and you have different traditions; different story telling traditions apart from anything else. But I think there’s a lot that connects these as well.”

Val does have other interests than crime fiction; football has been her passion since childhood and she’s a lifelong fan of Raith Rovers, the football club of her old home town Kirkcaldy. In fact, she’s a board member of the club and sponsors Raith’s shirts and the McDermid stand at Raith Rover grounds, in honour of her father who was a scout for the club and used to take his daughter with him on scouting trips. And as so many Scots did this summer, Val took sides with the Nordic island during the Euros, where the unlikely Icelandic team debuted in the championship by finishing in 8th place, even kicking the English out of the tournament.

Val says she’s excited about attending Iceland Noir and get a chance of revisiting Iceland. This is the third time Iceland Noir is held at The Nordic House 17-19 November. Day passes are available but one open-to-all panel will be held at Harpa Concert Hall, Iceland Noir’s Nordic Crime Fiction Stars, where Val will participate. Photo/Alan Peebles.
Val says she’s excited about attending Iceland Noir and get a chance of revisiting Iceland. This is the third time Iceland Noir is held at The Nordic House 17-19 November. Day passes are sold at the entrance for 2500 ISK and the admission fee for singular panels is 1000 ISK, but one open-to-all panel will be held at Harpa Concert Hall, Iceland Noir’s Nordic Crime Fiction Stars, where Val will participate. Photo/Alan Peebles.

“I signed my emails “Val Jacobsdottir” on game day,” Val says chuckling and explains that since her father’s name, James, doesn’t exist in Icelandic, she went for the closest thing. “I enjoyed your passion and your style. And the crowd as well, with the Viking chant which came from Scotland originally, I belief. Apparently it started in Motherwell and I’m not quite sure how it moved from there to Iceland but we’re happy to share it with you!”

There are similarities between how the Icelandic football team sprung into the limelight and Icelandic crime drama which came into international demand only a few years ago. Val has an explanation. “Some of us have been banging on for years about the importance of translating foreign fiction and it took a long time to really get this moving. But now it’s become a thing where, I think, publishers have realised that actually it’s better to translate a really good foreign language novel than to publish another mediocre one written in English.

So there has been this movement towards publishing more translated fiction anyway. But then with the phenomenon of the success of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, suddenly all the publishers got very excited about Nordic crime in general. And you know, publishers are very lazy, if they see a bandwagon go by they jump on it and cling onto it with their fingertips.

And so I think the Icelandic crime writers just hit the ground at the right time, there was an appetite for their work outside their own backyard, as it were. And sometimes that’s just what it takes; publishing and success for writers is a matter of luck, a matter of being in the right place with the right book at the right time. I think that’s what happened; it started with Arnaldur and then he was followed by the others. And I think people were eager to sample what was coming out of Iceland as well as the other Nordic countries.”

“I enjoyed your passion and your style. And the crowd as well, with the Viking chant which came from Scotland originally, I belief. Apparently it started in Motherwell and I’m not quite sure how it moved from there to Iceland but we’re happy to share it with you!”

And Val, like so many other Brits, was glued to the TV on Saturday nights last February when BBC aired Trapped (Ófærð), the first Icelandic noir series to go international. “I enjoyed it very much. I thought it was very gripping and I liked the central character (played by Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) very much, he was very appealing, I thought. And the claustrophobic sense was interesting; they’re literally TRAPPED. It also reminded me of the roots of classic crime fiction, you know, the locked room mystery, if you like, with a limited number of people who could be responsible. But it still had a wider canvas because of the ferry that had come from the outside world.”

But it’s the common denominator that unites people all over the world over a crime drama such as Trapped, Val says. “When you watch something like that, what you’re struck by – as much as the differences – is that people are the same wherever they are, wherever you set them down, people behave in the same way. And that’s why we connect to fiction and television series from other places because we recognize those common behaviours. So, when fiction works well it plugs into this sense we have of how people work.”

In Trapped, small town police officer Andri (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) and his team of two (Ilmur Kristjánsdóttir and Ingvar E. Sigurðsson) have enough trouble on their hands with their remote North Iceland town getting cut off by a snow storm, when an international ferry arrives at the same time a mutilated torso is discovered in the harbour. Trapped was first broadcast on RÚV in December but has since been shown in most of the Nordic countries, Great Britain, France, Germany, Poland and Australia. RÚV have recently announced that a second series will be made.
In Trapped, small town police officer Andri (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) and his team of two (Ilmur Kristjánsdóttir and Ingvar E. Sigurðsson) have enough trouble on their hands with their remote North Iceland town getting cut off by a snow storm, when an international ferry arrives at the same time a mutilated torso is discovered in the harbour. Trapped was first broadcast on RÚV in December but has since been shown in most of the Nordic countries, Great Britain, France, Germany, Poland and Australia. RÚV have recently announced that a second series will be made.

Main photo: Fraser Rice.

The Hamburger Factory
- gourmet burgers

Ok. You’re in Iceland. Most likely for the first time.

You will probably bathe in the Blue Lagoon and take a road trip to Gullfoss and
Geysir. That’s all well and good. But neither Geysir’s nor waterfalls are
something you eat. That’s why we have 15 brilliant and creative hamburgers at
The Hamburger Factory. And they are all perfectly square. Don’t miss out on
Iceland’s most beloved hamburgers.

The Hamburger Factory is Iceland’s most innovative gourmet burger chain.
Packed with burger-craving customers since it’s opening in 2010, among the
regulars is Iceland’s best known fisherman, Eric Clapton. In our restaurants we
welcome tourists with our newspaper like menu and smiley service. They are
packed with fun items and memorable connections to Icelandic pop culture.

Locations:

Omnom Chocolate
- award-winning chocolate maker

    Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

    Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

    Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

    In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

    At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.

     

    Alfred’s Apartments
    - gay owned an operated

      Alfred’s Apartments and Alfred’s Studios is a gay operated and owned accommodation in the heart of Reykjavik.

      Alfred’s Apartments offers spacious apartments at a good price located just around the corner from Laugavegur shopping street. You can choose the apartment starting from a Small Studio for 2 persons to a large One-bedroom Apartment with balcony for 5 persons.

      Their staff will ensure your comfort during the stay and provide the most updated information about the city, gay and night life in Reykjavik.

      Each apartment has a private bathroom with a shower, fully equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. Guests can buy groceries at the local grocery store 50 meters from the apartments. Because of their very central location, numerous shops, restaurants and cafés are available in the surrounding area. The Church of Hallgrimur is located 350 m from the apartments, a tourist agency is just 50 m away and the nearest gay bar is less than 5 minutes walking distance.

      Laekur hostel
      In the hostel we have dorms for 4-8 persons with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The rooms are furnished with free internet, lockers, and a USB charger by each bed. The beds have linen provided and you can rent a towel in the cafe on the ground floor for 5 EUR.

      All the dorms are mixed with both genders. You can also book a whole room with 4-8 bunker beds.

      Blue Lagoon
      - a world of wonder

      Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater comes from 2000 meters within the earth where sea and fresh water converge in a tectonic frontier of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals: the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

      From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing a hotel, a restaurant, a luxury lounge, a renowned line of skin care, a research center, in-water massage, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

      Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape of Iceland’s Reykjanes lava plain, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

      Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

      Whales of Iceland
      - larger than life

      Whales of Iceland is the largest whale exhibition in Europe (and perhaps even the world), where guests can learn about the giants of the sea in a calm and modern environment. The permanent exhibition features whales like guests have never seen them before. It is truly a giant experience.

      Landsbankinn
      - leading financial institution

      Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

      The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

      Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

      The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

      Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

      Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

      It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

      Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

      Dohop
      - get inspired

      Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

      Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

      More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

      Macland
      - for all your Apple needs

      From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

      Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
      For all your Apple needs. We are here.

      Aurora Reykjavik
      - northern lights center

        Aurora Reykjavik is a Northern Lights Center situated in downtown Reykjavík at the Old Harbor next to Icelandair Hotel Marina and Vikin Maritime Museum.

        Aurora Reykjavík is Iceland’s first educational and recreational Northern Lights Center where multimedia is used to explain when, why and how the Northern Lights work, with the highlights being large HD projection of the Aurora’s. We also share myths and legends about what our ancestor thought about those mystical lights.

        The Northern Lights Center is for all ages. Children are our favorite guests and we created the exhibition in a way that children can have a look freely and parents don’t have to worry about things being broken.

        Aurora Reykjavik offers a great selection of souvenirs that are designed and made by Icelanders along with nice little coffee corner, where you can enjoy free coffee and tea while browsing through the souvenirs or just planning your next step.

        Contact Aurora

          Your Name (required)

          Your Email (required)

          Subject

          Your Message

          Ísey skyr
          - once tasted never forgotten

          Our Story
          Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

          For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

          Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
          This is our secret and you are in on it

          You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

          Núðluskálin
          - noodle bar

          Núðluskálin is a small gay owned and operated fusion noodle bar.

          All of our courses are individually made from fresh ingredients and therefore highly customisable.
          We offer fully Vegan versions of all courses.
          Though originally a take-away we now seat over 30 people.

          Núðluskálin is located right in the heart of Reykjavík on Skólavörðustígur 8 (street leading up to the big Church) near the junction with Laugavegur (main street).

          Seatours
          - adventure cruise

          Ferry Baldur – the gate to the West fjords
          and VikingSushi Adventure – Bird & Nature watching Tour for everyone all year around

          The “VikingSushi Adventure” is the right boat tour for travelers who are adventurous and want to experience something new – close up to the nature seafood simply doesn’t come fresher than this! The archipelago area of the Breidafjordur Bay always surprises her visitors during winter or summer with spectacular sights. Where else you get to try delicious fresh scallops and sea urchin roe straight from the ocean served with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger.

          600x400-seatours-tasting

          This old volcanic area, characterized by the typical basalt formations of the islands, is the home of countless birds. Here you will also find the strongest currents in Iceland. The VikingSushi Tour takes roughly two hours and our captain is also the tour guide.

          600x400-seatours

          The VikingSushi Tour is a true adventure through incredible nature which should not be missed by any traveler to West Iceland.

          Birds, possible to spot:
          -puffins (from the middle of April until the middle of August)
          -eider ducks
          -shags
          -kittiwakes
          -fulmars
          -white-tailed eagle

          The car ferry Baldur is the bridge to the West fjords via the island Flatey
          Ferry Baldur crosses Breidafjordur Bay daily from Stykkisholmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to Brjanslaekur in the north. A ferry ride considerably shortens the route between the south and mid-west of the country and the West Fjords region. It also gives you the opportunity to experience a floating restaurant.

          Take a stopover at the charming island Flatey when you are crossing the bay or go to a day tour to Flatey and back to Stykkishólmur. At Flatey are no cars allowed and between the houses of the 18th century you get the feeling of a journey back in time.

          Contact Us


          PGlmcmFtZSBzcmM9Imh0dHBzOi8vd3d3Lmdvb2dsZS5jb20vbWFwcy9lbWJlZD9wYj0hMW0xNCExbTEyITFtMyExZDI3ODQyLjM0NzA2NDA3OTU4ITJkLTIxLjkwMDg1MDg1NzkxODQyITNkNjQuMTQxNzA3ODE2NzAyMDEhMm0zITFmMCEyZjAhM2YwITNtMiExaTEwMjQhMmk3NjghNGYxMy4xITVlMCEzbTIhMXNlbiEycyE0djE0MzMzMzc5MTUyMjYiIHdpZHRoPSIxMDAlIiBoZWlnaHQ9IjEwMCUiIGZyYW1lYm9yZGVyPSIwIiBzdHlsZT0iYm9yZGVyOjAiPjwvaWZyYW1lPg==
          Thank You. We will contact you as soon as possible.