In a post from a little while ago about authors unexpectedly having recycled ideas in their novels from other sources, mention was made of the Norwegian writer Sven Elvestad’s novel Jernvognen (1909), published under the pseudonym Stein Riverton, the solution of which was…heavily borrowed for a famous novel of detection in the 1920s (and, in fact, another in the 1960s…hint hint…though no-one thought to mention that). The novel in question is rather explicitly mentioned in the comments, so, y’know, beware spoilers.
Translator Lucy Moffat popped up in the comments of that thread a couple of days ago to let us know that she has prepared a new translation of Jernvognen — under the English title The Iron Chariot — and it is out today, published as an ebook by Abandoned Bookshop (no paperback it seems, Sergio…).
There’s a lovely piece about it at the AB website, and the synopsis they provide there runs thus:
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…