“There is nothing new except what has been forgotten.” ― Marie Antoinette
Some people have things in their past they’re happy to remember. Some people have things in their past they’d prefer to forget. If you’re Dr. Paul Ansell, there are things in your past you can’t remember. If you’re Dr. Paul Ansell, the forgetting is at the heart of the story JL Merrow has penned of your life, and the remembering of a missing year is at the heart of the mysterious death of your lover in an accident that nearly killed you as well.
Was it murder? Or was it simply a tragic twist of fate that sent Paul and his lover, Sven Halvorson, plummeting over an Icelandic waterfall? With no witnesses to the event and Paul’s amnesia of the entire year he’d spent in Iceland, there are no ready answers to the questions that have left Sven’s death an unsolved mystery.
Paul has left England and returned to Iceland to try and cobble together his memories of his previous time there, as well as carrying on with the job that had brought him there in the first place: the studying of the sagas of this land steeped in Viking history and tradition, in particular, that of the life of Egil Skallagrimsson, the interest in and fascination with the larger-than-life berserker the thing that instigated Paul and Sven’s relationship, a relationship that may not have been without its share of problems.
With visions of craggy and barren landscapes, harsh and unforgiving climes, JL Merrow walks the reader through a mystery in which Paul is often unsure of whom he can and cannot trust. His instincts and memory loss are sometimes at odds, making him suspicious of Alex Winter, the visiting American, and making him both turn to and leery of Viggo Gudrunarson, a man from the time before, a man who seems to be keeping things from Paul, a man for whom Paul’s sense memory might indicate they had once been more than friends.
Fall Hard is a novel steeped in Icelandic lore, vivid imagery, and a right interesting little mystery that hinges entirely upon Paul’s mind filling in the blanks so he can put paid to the past and carry on with the present. As is always the case with JL Merrow’s characters, each is distinctly appealing whether friendly or questionably foe-ish, and while I must confess I’ve never been particularly curious about Iceland’s legends and history, this book introduces a lot of folklore I’d have never looked for myself but found I enjoyed, simply because I’m a fan of the very foundation of civilization that grew from the oral and written stories of the past.
The romance—you’ll have to read the book yourself to discover if Alex or Viggo wins Paul’s heart—while at the center of the book, sometimes falls as a sidenote to the mystery but in the end, to quote the Bard, all’s well that ends well.
If you’re a JL Merrow fan, I can say I don’t think Fall Hard will disappoint.