A beautiful woman is found stabbed and frozen in the ice of Lake Much, dressed only in the costume wings and tight corset of a Norse Valkyrie.
Grammaticus Kolbitter, police precinct records clerk by day and keyboardist in a Viking heavy-metal band, The Berserkers, by night, is pulled into the investigation.
What does a records clerk know about solving crime? Reluctantly, Grammaticus embarks on the adventure of a lifetime.
Jerker bounced down the precinct steps ahead of me. I was glad to be out of Fulaflugahål. The gray iron columns of the train station fell away, and the rails clapped beneath us. Jerker clung to a folio of images he had prepared when Snorri found the victim in the ice.
Jerker nodded tentatively. “I know what to call it—a lid.”
Snorri beamed. “Exactly, it is a lid.” Flushed with overconfidence, however, he pushed his logic too far, supposing this or that, extrapolating any tenuous connection, nattering on and excluding only what his spirit impelled him to exclude.
Finally, he arrived at a Zen-like impossibility: Someone had welded the ice cap in place.
“Welded?” Bergthora snorted.
“Welded,” Snorri insisted.
Jerker said, “I have heard of carving ice, but not welding ice.”
Bergthora rolled her eyes at the circus. “Welded with what?”
A kind of delirium haunted the moment. The feathers spread until every barb of every plume fluttered. A harness of leather straps bound the wings over the girl’s shoulders. The wind gusted and wracked the vision. With a hollow snap, the delicate contrivance crumpled as swiftly as a kite in a gale.
I approached the dark sight half under its spell. The Constable shouted, “Boy!” I halted, yards from the corpse. The message was clear: I was not to advance. The Constable then divided the crew among tasks. Bergthora and Snorri secured the wings by packing them down with snow; Jerker circled the body, snapping photographs. I remained alone on the ice without an assignment, bouncing on my toes to keep warm, a trick taught the children of our town in grade school.
Aud returned the sword to her hip, loosed the scabbard from her belt, and leaned it on a tree. She continued. “Some ancient warriors fought standing in place. They relied on strength and the mass of their weapons to deliver wounding blows. My blade is for slashing. While your weapon is not a sword, of course, it is the staff. A staff demands other skills. You must be agile.”
Aud pressed the tip of a massive forefinger into the spot in the middle of my brow; the pressure sharpened. “This is where a sword can go. Remember the grooves in the blade for running blood.”
This is an engaging, tightly written experimental novel, full of evocative storytelling and narrative drive.
Wyl Menmuir, author of The Many, long-listed for the Man Booker Prize 2016.
The Berserkers is original and surprising in all the right ways. It’s extremely well written—not only is the prose clean and clear, there’s a real spark of life in the language that makes the book hum.
Jack Livings, author of The Blizzard Party and winner of the 2015 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize and the Rome Prize for literature.
Vic Peterson was educated at Kenyon College, the University of Texas (Dallas) and the University of Chicago. He worked as a business executive and now divides his time between Lawrence, Kansas and Northport, Michigan.