Kalmann is a deceptive, engaging, seemingly simple mystery, set in a remote, slowly dying Icelandic fishing village, with lyrical descriptions of the land and sea, weather and animals. The narrator is Kalmann Odinsson, dismissed by many as "the village idiot," who explains in detail his views on life and principles, especially the importance of keeping promises, and discourses on his work hunting fox and fishing for shark. In public, he's easily flustered and tongue-tied and sometimes batters himself and others in rage, hurt and embarrassment. But he has a heart of gold and somehow has a way of being at or near the center of a series of murderous events, starting with his discovery in the snow of a pool of blood from the man who has been doing the most to try to revive the town through tourism--but also through some crooked deals that are revealed only slowly. In the course of events, readers become acquainted with a range of eccentric, entertaining townspeople, as well as Kalmann's beloved grandfather, now mostly incommunicative in a nursing home, who was the only person who fully understood Kalmann as a child and who taught him how to hunt and fish.

Born in Switzerland, Joachim B. Schmidt immigrated to Iceland in 2007 and writes in German. (The novel, his first appearing in English, is nicely translated by Jamie Lee Searle and won the Crime Cologne Award in 2021.) Kalmann has a distinct, engaging voice that may not be as reliable as it seems, yet by the end of this tale, all mysteries are cleared up in surprising and satisfying ways. --John Mutter, editor-in-chief, Shelf Awareness

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