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THE IRON CHARIOT

Sven Elvestad (pen name: Stein Riverton)

  • Original Title: JERNVOGNEN
  • Publication date: December 1909
  • Publisher: ASCHEHOUG
  • Country: NO
  • Crime fiction/Detective novel

Information

  • Epoch: Historical
  • Time Period: 20th century
  • Location setting: Norway
  • Themes: PEOPLE facing life, Search for the truth, Death, PEOPLE facing the extraordinary, Manipulation, Psychological dysfunction, Rivalry, SOCIAL CHRONICLES, Social relations

Pitch

Holidaymakers at a guesthouse on a Norwegian island are shocked to discover a fellow guest has been found murdered out on a desolate plain. The nameless narrator was the last person to see the victim alive; shortly afterwards, he was disturbed by a noise like ‘a rattling of chains’. A local tells him this is ‘the iron chariot’, which is said to presage death.

Comments

Voted #1 in a poll of the greatest Norwegian crime novels of all time

An English translation was first published as an ebook by the Abandoned Bookshop in 2017. The translation will be published by Lightning, an Eye Books imprint, in paperback for the first time in the UK in November 2019.

Sven Elvestad (1884 - 1934) was a Norwegian journalist and author. He is best known for his detective stories, which were published under the pen name Stein Riverton and translated to several languages, including German and English. In 1908 Elvestad (under the pen name Kristian F. Biller) created the police detective Knut Gribb: a character that was taken over by several other writers in various magazines and series of paperbacks, and still exists. The Norwegian Riverton Prize is named after him.

Summary

On a blazing hot summer’s day, holidaymakers at a guesthouse on a Norwegian island are shocked to discover a fellow guest has been found murdered out on a desolate plain. The nameless narrator, an author, was the last person to see the victim alive; shortly afterwards, he was 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 Asbjorn Krag is summoned from the capital of 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…

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  • Author’s biography

    Sven Elvestad (1884 - 1934) was a Norwegian journalist and author. He is best known for his detective stories, which were published under the pen name Stein Riverton and translated to several languages, including German and English. In 1908 Elvestad (under the pen name Kristian F. Biller) created the police detective Knut Gribb: a character that was taken over by several other writers in various magazines and series of paperbacks, and still exists. His masterpiece was published in 1909: JERNVOGNEN (The Iron Chariot). The Norwegian Riverton Prize is named after him.