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By SarahJane Heckscher-Marquis

In the late eighties and nineties, the legal thriller was King, and many  hoped that the financial thriller would become just as big. However, as the nineties progressed, this didn’t happen. In fact, the legal thriller began to wane in popularity.

Michael Ridpath, author of Where The Shadows Lie, is undoubtedly a brave writer. Having previously written eight successful financial thrillers, he took a risky decision to switch genres. In part, this was a personal decision, but it was also a decidedly commercial one.

Ridpath’s writing had improved with each novel, yet, he found himself wanting to move beyond the narrow world of finance, which he knew intimately, stretch himself further, and explore the wider world. With sales of his financial thrillers slowly declining, he spent time thinking about what he could do next. After his research, he came to the conclusion that he wanted to write a series of crime novels, rather than the stand-alone thrillers he had become known for. He was going to write about an unusual detective, and a foreign land.

Having traveled extensively on book tours, Ridpath found a fascination with Iceland, and longed to return to this mysterious country. Thus, several years after making the decision to change genres, and two years spent researching and writing the novel, Michael Ridpath is reborn with Where The Shadows Lie.

Many authors have explored the fish-out-of-water character, but Ridpath decided to give his character, Magnus Jonson, a different twist, making him Icelandic-born, but American educated. Magnus Jonson is a Boston homicide detective, forced to return to the land of his fathers after an unfortunate series of events leaves him running for his life.

Magnus Jonson has a big problem. After having done the right thing, he has made fierce enemies, and now, someone is trying to kill him. When the opportunity to take a police-advisory position arises, he reluctantly agrees to travel to the land of “Fire and Ice”, in part to hide, and in part to assist the Icelandic police force in a 20-year murder mystery.

Magnus struggles to come to terms with Iceland, the fact that he can no longer carry a gun, the differences between Icelandic and American legal procedures, and the natural resentment of his Icelandic superior. Additionally, Jonson’s personal history with his homeland proves to be far more important and expansive than he could ever imagine, and casts an emotional strain on his psyche.

While it would have been easier to endow him with almost superhuman qualities, given the differences between big city Boston and the much quieter island of only 300,000 inhabitants, Ridpath chose to make Magnus Jonson a very believable character. Jonson makes mistakes, makes discoveries in spite of himself, and gets things wrong in many ways. He is also human enough to get drunk at an inopportune moment, and antagonize his superior, without even trying.

With a highly unusual plot line, and beautifully detailed sense of place, Michael Ridpath weaves an intriguing tale. His love for the island and painstaking research shine through the pages, and his self-named “Distinctive Detective”, breathes fresh life into the genre.


Michael Ridpath grew up in North Yorkshire. He read history at Oxford University and went on to spend eight years as a bond trader in the City, before giving up his job to write full time. He wrote eight financial thrillers, which were translated into 38 languages, before beginning a series featuring the Icelandic detective, Magnus Jonson. He lives in North London with his wife and three children.

To learn more about Michael, please visit his website.

SarahJane Heckscher-Marquis
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