Operation Napoleon by Arnaldur Indridason

I cursed myself to finish every novel I begin. Sometimes, that is easy and thrilling, but over times, it becomes a chore. Operation Napoleon belongs to the latter group. But I finished the novel, and now I’m ready for my review. Here we go.

When the Americans find a Nazi plane on a glacier in Iceland, though the plane has been missing for decades, they sent a team to Iceland to claim the wreckage. After arrival at the scene, they encountered two members on a rescue team, testing snowmobiles, and they took the two prisoners, tortured them, and left them for dead. The leader, Ratoff, sent two hitmen—I using the term loosing—to kill the sister of one member, on the chance that her brother, making a phone call to her, told her about the plane. 

Her name is Kristín, and she is the protagonist of the novel. She is a lawyer employed in the government, something to do with trade and commerce. She battles against Ratoff and his goons, Ripley and Bateman, along with a special force in the US military, as she strives to save her brother. With Ripley and Bateman, the Laurel and Hardy of political assassination, on her tail, she makes her way from Reykjavik to the Vatnajökull Glacier, and to the showdown with US forces.

Does that make sense? Am I making sense? I find Operation Napoleon easy to follow but hard to explain. It is a thriller, and like all thrillers, it has its twists and turns, its narrow escapes, and its mystery to solve. I read it for the mystery. Why are the Americans so interested in this lost Nazi aircraft decades after it had crashed? Why is it in Iceland in the first place? And why, among the bodies, are there Americans? 

In truth, I solved the mystery early in my reading, but I didn’t trust it because…well, it was so stupid. Americans would never do that! I won’t tell you the solution in case you read the novel, but it’s a doozy.

All my life, I’ve been reading novels and watching films where the Americans, especially the US military, are the bad guys, but this time it’s by an Icelandic writer, with an Icelandic perspective, and I found that jarring. Iceland, I learned from the research for the novel, doesn’t have a standing army. They only have a coast guard. At the time this novel was written,  in 1999, Americans kept a base there. Icelanders had mixed feelings about the base. They appreciated the economic impact of having American dollars in the local market, but they resented America with its pushy ways and its holier-than-thou attitudes. Some were in favor of canceling the treaty that gave the Americans the base, whereas others saw the treaty as a positive. No doubt, a military presence in a country that needs no military was a hard thing it stomach. 

I don’t know what camp Arnaldur Indridason belongs to, but he did a good job at capturing the mix feelings. He explained it well, and one of Kristín allies was an American.  

What to say about the writer, Arnaldur Indridason? He is well known for his crime novels, especially his Detective Erlendur series, but I have never read them and have no judgment of them. Since he is a competent writer, and since I like foreign crime novels, I think I’ll read one of his crime novels. Operation Napoleon didn’t work for me, but I will not judge all his novels as bad.  

Operation Napoleon has inspired a movie. I didn’t watch the movie, and I doubt I ever will. I tell you because it’s an option for seeing the story without reading it. What this? Am I recommending the movie and not the novel? Yes, I am, because I regretted the time I spent reading to novel, and I imagine you will too. 

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