Operation Napoleon: A Thriller

Operation Napoleon: A Thriller

by Arnaldur Indridason

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Operation Napoleon: A Thriller by Arnaldur Indridason

From worldwide bestselling author Arnaldur Indriđason comes a mesmerizing tour de force that takes readers deep inside the heart of a long-buried secret with huge international consequences.


In 1945, a German bomber crash-lands in Iceland during a blizzard. Puzzlingly, there are both German and American officers on board. One of the senior German officers claims that their best chance of survival is to try to walk to the nearest farm. He sets off, a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist, only to disappear into the white vastness…


Flash forward to the present. The U.S. Army is clandestinely trying to remove the wreck of an airplane from an Icelandic glacier. A young Icelander, Elías, inadvertently stumbles upon the excavation and then promptly disappears. But before he vanishes, he manages to contact his sister, Kristín. She embarks on a thrilling and perilous adventure, determined to discover the truth of her brother’s fate—and solve the riddle of


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250017994
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 01/29/2013
Pages: 392
Sales rank: 1,206,259
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 7.40(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

ARNALDUR INDRIDASON won the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Silence of the Grave and is the only author to win the Glass Key Award for Best Nordic Crime Novel two years in a row, for Jar City and Silence of the Grave. The film of Jar City, now available on DVD, was Iceland's entry for the 2008 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, and the film of his next book, Silence of the Grave, is currently in production with the same director. He lives in Iceland.

Read an Excerpt

Operation Napoleon

By Arnaldur Indriason

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 1999 Arnaldur Indriason
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-8388-4


Control Room, Building 312, Washington DC, Wednesday 27 January

The building stood not far from the Capitol in Washington DC. Originally a warehouse, it had undergone an elaborate conversion to house one of the capital's many clandestine organisations. No cost had been spared in the conversion, either inside or out. Now, giant computers hummed day and night, receiving information relayed from space. Satellite photographs belonging to the US military intelligence service were collected in a database, and there the information was processed, analysed and catalogued, and the alert raised if anything irregular came to light.

In official documents the warehouse was known simply as Building 312, but the organisation it housed had played a fundamental role in the US army's defence programme during the Cold War. Established shortly after 1960 during the most intense period of mutual suspicion, its chief role had been to analyse spy photographs taken of the Soviet Union, China and Cuba, and any other nations classed as enemies of the United States. After the end of the Cold War, its role included monitoring terrorist bases in the Middle East and conflicts in the Balkans. The organisation controlled a total of eight satellites in orbits ranging from 800 to 1,500 kilometres above Earth.

The director of the organisation was General Vytautas Carr, who stood now in front of a monitor which filled an entire wall of the first-floor control room, staring intently at a batch of images that had been drawn to his attention. It was cool in the room on account of the fans for the twelve powerful computer units which hummed ceaselessly in a cordoned-off section. Two armed guards stood at the doors. The room was intersected by four long banks of flickering screens and control panels.

Carr was not far off his seventieth birthday and ought to have taken retirement but for a special dispensation by the organisation. He was almost six foot five, his back ramrod straight, unbowed with age. He had been a soldier all his life, had served in Korea, and directed and shaped the operations of the organisation as one of its most dynamic chiefs. He was dressed in civilian clothes, a double-breasted dark suit. The monitor on the wall in front of him was reflected in his glasses, behind which a pair of small, shrewd eyes were concentrating on the two screens at the top left.

On one of the screens were images called up from the organisation's archives; these held tens of millions of satellite photographs taken over the last four decades. The other showed new pictures. The images Vytautas Carr was scrutinising were of a small section of south-east Iceland's Vatnajökull glacier, one taken about a year ago, the other earlier that day. The older image revealed nothing remarkable, just the pristine white expanse of the ice cap interrupted by the odd belt of crevasses, but in the new picture, down in the left-hand corner, a small mark was visible. The images were coarse and grainy but once touched up they would be sharp and clear. Carr requested a blow-up of the detail and the image magnified, then resolved itself until the black mark filled the entire screen.

'Who do we have in Keflavík?' Carr asked the man at the control panel as he enlarged the images.

'We don't have anyone in Keflavík, sir,' he replied.

Carr considered this.

'Get Ratoff for me,' he said, adding: 'This had better not be another false alarm.'

'We have better satellite equipment these days, sir,' the other man said, holding the phone.

'We've never gotten such a clear picture of the glacier before. How many people know about the new images?'

'Only the rest of the eight watch, that's three people. Then you and me, of course.'

'Do they know the situation?'

'No, sir. They didn't show any interest in the pictures.'

'Keep it that way,' said Carr and left the room. He stalked down the long corridor to his office and shut the door behind him. A light was flashing on his telephone.

'Ratoff on line two,' said a disembodied voice. Carr frowned and punched the button.

'How long will it take for you to get to Keflavík?' Carr asked without preamble.

'What's Keflavík, sir?' queried the voice on the phone.

'Our base in Iceland,' answered Carr.

'Iceland? I could be there tomorrow evening. Why, what's going on?'

'We've received a clear image of the biggest glacier in the country. It seems to be returning an object to us which we lost there many years ago and we need a man in Keflavík to direct the operation. You will take two special forces squadrons and choose your own equipment. Call it a routine exercise. Direct the locals to the defense secretary if they're uncooperative. I'll talk to him. I'll also call a meeting with the Icelandic government to offer an explanation. The military base is a sensitive issue in Iceland. Immanuel Wesson will take over our embassy in Reykjavík and act as spokesman. You'll receive more detailed instructions on the way.'

'I presume this is a covert operation, sir?'

'I wouldn't have called you otherwise.'

'Keflavík. I remember now. Wasn't there some wild goose chase there in '67?'

'We have better satellites these days.'

'Are the coordinates the same?'

'No. This is a new location. That damn glacier keeps moving,' said Carr and cut short the conversation without saying goodbye. He did not like Ratoff. He stood up, walked over to a large glass cabinet and opened the door, taking out two small keys which he turned over in his palm. One was slightly larger than the other but both were finely scaled, clearly designed for small keyholes. He put them back in the cabinet.

It was many years since Carr had examined the wheel. He took it out now and weighed it in his hands. He reread the inscription: Kruppstahl. It, alone, had confirmed the crash-landing. Its make correlated with the type and size of the plane, its year of manufacture and capacity. This wheel was proof that it was up there on the glacier. After all these years it had at last been found.


Foreign Ministry, Reykjavík, Thursday 28 January, Afternoon

Kristín closed her eyes. She felt the headache throbbing in her forehead. This was the third time the man had come to her office and launched into a diatribe against the ministry, blaming them for the fact that he had been cheated. On the first two occasions he had attempted to browbeat her, threatening that if he did not receive compensation for what he regarded as the ministry's mistake he would take the matter to court. Twice now she had listened to his tirade and twice struggled to keep herself under control, answering him clearly and objectively, but he did not seem to hear a word she said. Now he was sitting in her office once again, embarking on the same cycle of recriminations.

She guessed he was around forty, ten years or so older than her, and this age difference apparently licensed him to throw his weight about in her office, making threats and referring to her as 'a girl like you'. He made no attempt to hide his contempt for her, though whether for the sin of being a woman or a lawyer she could not tell. His name was Runólfur Zóphaníasson. He had a carefully cultivated three-day beard and thick, black hair, slicked back with gel. He wore a dark suit with a waistcoat, and a small silver chain attached to a watch. This he extracted from his waistcoat pocket every now and then with long, thin fingers, flicking it open self-importantly as if he did not have time to waste on 'this crap' – as he put it himself.

He's right about the crap, she thought. He sold mobile freezing plants to Russia, and both the ministry and the Icelandic Trade Council had assisted him in making business contacts. He had sent four units to Murmansk and Kamchatka, but had not received so much as a rouble in return and now claimed that the ministry's lawyer, who no longer worked there, had suggested he dispatch the units and charge for them later, in order to smooth the way for further contracts. He had done so, with the result that goods belonging to him to the tune of more than thirty million krónur had disappeared in Russia. He had tried in vain to trace them, and now looked to the Trade Council and trade department of the Foreign Ministry for support and compensation, if nothing else. 'What kind of idiot consultants does this ministry employ?' he asked repeatedly at his meetings with Kristín. She had contacted the lawyer who could not remember giving him any advice but warned her that the man had once threatened him.

'You must have realised that doing business with Russia these days is very risky,' she had said to him at their first meeting, and pointed out that although the ministry endeavoured to help Icelandic companies set up deals, the risk always lay with the companies themselves. The ministry regretted what had happened and would happily help him make contact with Russian buyers through the embassy in Moscow, but if he could not extract payment, there was little the ministry could do. She had repeated this message in different words at their next meeting and for a third time, now, as he sat before her with an expression of petulance and ill temper and that pretentious silver chain in his waistcoat pocket. The meeting was dragging on. It was late and she wanted to go home.

'You won't get off so easily,' he said. 'You trick people into doing business with the Russian mafia. You probably even take backhanders from them. What do I know? One hears things. I want my money back and if I don't get it ...'

She knew his diatribe off by heart and decided to cut it short. She did not have time for this.

'We're sorry, naturally, that you've lost money in your dealings with Russia but it's not our problem,' she said coolly. 'We don't make decisions for people. It's up to them to evaluate the situation for themselves. If you're so stupid as to export goods worth tens of millions without any securities, you're even more of a fool than you look. I'm now asking you, please, to leave my office and not to bother me in future with any more rubbish about what you imagine to be the ministry's responsibilities.'

He gawped at her, the words 'stupid' and 'fool' echoing in his head. He opened his mouth to say something but she got in first.

'Out, now, if you please.'

She saw his face swell with rage.

He stood up slowly without taking his eyes off her, then suddenly seemed to lose control. Picking up the chair he had been sitting on, he hurled it at the wall behind him.

'This isn't finished!' he yelled. 'We'll meet again and then we'll see which of us is the fool. It's a conspiracy. A conspiracy, I tell you! And you'll suffer for it.'

'Yes, yes, dear, off you go now,' she said as if to a six-year-old. She knew she was goading him but could not resist it.

'You watch yourself! Don't think you can talk to me like that and get away with it!' he shouted and swept to the door, slamming it behind him so the walls shook.

Ministry employees had collected outside her office, drawn by the sound of the chair hitting the wall and the man shouting. They saw him emerge, purple in the face, and storm away. Kristín appeared in the doorway.

'It's all right,' she told her colleagues calmly, adding: 'he's got problems,' then shut the door carefully. Sitting down at her desk, she began to tremble and sat quietly until she had regained her composure. They did not teach you how to deal with this at law school.

Kristín was petite and dark, with short, black hair, strong features in a thin face and sharp brown eyes that shone with decisiveness and self-confidence. She had a reputation for firmness and obstinacy, and was known within the ministry for not suffering fools gladly.

The phone rang. It was her brother. He immediately felt her tension.

'Is everything okay?' he asked.

'Oh, it's nothing. There was a man in here just now. I thought he was going to throw a chair at me. Apart from that, everything's fine.'

'Throw a chair! What sort of lunatics are you dealing with?'

'The Russian mafia, or so I'm told. It's some kind of conspiracy, apparently. How are things with you?'

'Everything's great. I just bought this phone. Do I sound clear?'

'No different from usual.'

'No different from usual!' he mimicked. 'Do you know where I am?'

'No. Where?'

'Just outside Akureyri. The team's on its way to Vatnajökull.'

'Vatnajökull? In the middle of winter?'

'It's a winter exercise. I've already told you. We reach the glacier tomorrow and I'll call you again then. But you must tell me how the phone sounds. It's clear, isn't it?' he repeated.

'Great. You stick with the others. You hear me? Don't attempt anything by yourself.'

'Sure. It cost seventy thousand krónur, you know.'

'What did?'

'The phone. It's got NMT's long-distance communication system.'

'NMT? What are you on about? Over and out.'

'You don't need to say over ...'

She put down the receiver. Her brother Elías was ten years younger than her, forever immersed in one new hobby or another, mostly outdoor activities which involved travelling in the uninhabited interior. One year it had been hunting, when he filled her freezer with goose and reindeer meat. Another year it was skydiving, and he pestered her to jump with him, without success. The third year it was river rafting in rubber dinghies, then jeep trips across the highlands, glacier trips, skiing trips, snowmobiling – you name it. He was a member of the Reykjavík Air Ground Rescue Team. And it was just like him to buy a mobile phone for seventy thousand krónur. He was a technology junkie. His jeep looked like the flight deck of an aircraft.

In this respect brother and sister could not be more different. When winter arrived, her instinct was to crawl into hibernation and not emerge until spring. She never ventured into the highlands, and avoided travelling in Iceland altogether during winter. If she went for a summer holiday, she kept to the country's ring road and stayed at hotels. But generally she went abroad; to the US, where she had studied, or London, where she had friends. Sometimes, during the darkest period of the Icelandic winter, she would book a week's escape somewhere hot. She hated the cold and dark and had a tendency to suffer from depression during the blackest months when the sun rose at eleven and crawled along the horizon, to set after only five meagre hours of twilight. At this time of year she was overwhelmed by the realisation that she was trapped on a small island in the far north of the Atlantic, in cold, dark isolation.

But regardless of their differences, brother and sister got on very well. They were their parents' only children, and despite the ten-year age gap, or perhaps because of it, had always been extremely close. He worked for a large garage in Reykjavík, converting jeeps into customised off-roaders; she was a lawyer with a degree in international law from the University of California, had been working at the ministry for two years and was very happy to be doing a job which made use of her education. Fortunately, encounters like today's were the exception.

As long as he takes care up on the glacier, thought Kristín as she made her way home. The memory of her meeting with Runólfur would not go away. As she walked down Laugavegur shopping street, through the centre of Reykjavík and home to Tómasarhagi in the west of town, she had a prickling sensation of being watched. She had never experienced this before and told herself it was because she was still on edge. Looking around, she saw nothing to be concerned about and mocked herself for being so neurotic. But the feeling persisted. Come to think of it, she had never been accused of accepting bribes from the Russian mafia before either.


Keflavík Airport, Iceland, Thursday 28 January, 2000 GMT

The giant C-17 US army transport plane landed at Keflavík Airport at around 8 p.m., local time. It was cold, several degrees below zero, but the forecast was for rising temperatures and snow. The massive bulk of the jet taxied through the winter darkness to the end of runway seven, which was reserved for the exclusive use of the NATO base on Midnesheidi moor. It was a remote, bleak location amidst the lava fields on the westernmost tip of the Reykjanes peninsula, lashed by constant gale-force winds, devoid of vegetation, barely fit for human habitation. Hangars large and small dotted the landscape, along with barracks, shops, a cinema and administration blocks. The naval air station had been a centre for reconnaissance flights at the height of the Cold War but these days the base's activities had been greatly curtailed.

Once the aircraft had come to a standstill, the aft door opened, releasing a stream of personnel who immediately began the task of unloading: powerful snowmobiles, tracked vehicles, skiing equipment, all the gear necessary for tackling the glacier. Fifteen minutes after the plane had touched down, the first transporter departed from Keflavík Airport with its cargo, bound for the Reykjanes highway and the south Iceland route to Vatnajökull.


Excerpted from Operation Napoleon by Arnaldur Indriason. Copyright © 1999 Arnaldur Indriason. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


1. Control Room, Building 312, Washington DC, Wednesday 27 January,
2. Foreign Ministry, Reykjavík, Thursday 28 January, Afternoon,
3. Keflavík Airport, Iceland, Thursday 28 January, 2000 GMT,
4. Tómasarhagi, Reykjavík, Friday 29 January, 0600 GMT,
5. Washington DC, Friday 29 January, 1500 EST,
6. Vatnajökull Glacier, Iceland Friday 29 January, 1900 GMT,
7. Vatnajökull Glacier, Friday 29 January, 1930 GMT,
8. Building 312, Washington DC, Friday 29 January, Afternoon,
9. Reykjavík Friday 29 January, 1945 GMT,
10. Vatnajökull Glacier, Friday 29 January, 2100 GMT,
11. Central Reykjavík, Friday 29 January, 2100 GMT,
12. Keflavík Air Base, Friday 29 January, 2230 GMT,
13. Near Washington DC, Friday 29 January, 1700 EST,
14. Vatnajökull Glacier, Saturday 30 January,
15. Us Embassy, Central Reykjavík, Saturday 30 January, 0100 GMT,
16. Keflavík Air Base, Saturday 30 January, 0330 GMT,
17. Reykjavík, Saturday 30 January, 0415 GMT,
18. Keflavík Air Base, Saturday 30 January, 0500 GMT,
19. Control Room, Washington DC, Saturday 30 January,
20. Foreign Ministry, Reykjavík, Saturday 30 January, 0730 GMT,
21. South Iceland, Saturday 30 January, 1800 GMT,
22. Vatnajökull Glacier, Saturday 30 January, Evening,
23. Central Reykjavík, Saturday 30 January, 1800 GMT,
24. South-East Iceland, Saturday 30 January, Evening,
25. Vatnajökull Glacier, Saturday 30 January, Evening,
26. South-East Iceland, Saturday 30 January, Evening,
27. Lake Thingvallavatn, Saturday 30 January, 2100 GMT,
28. Vatnajökull Glacier, Saturday 30 January, 2300 GMT,
29. Vatnajökull Glacier, Saturday 30 January, 2315 GMT,
30. Vatnajökull Glacier, Sunday 31 January, 0000 GMT,
31. Vatnajökull Glacier, Sunday 31 January, 0015 GMT,
32. Keflavík Airport, Sunday 31 January, 0015 GMT,
33. Vatnajökull Glacier, Sunday 31 January, 0030 GMT,
34. Vatnajökull Glacier, Saturday 30 January, 2330 GMT,
35. Vatnajökull Glacier, Sunday 31 January,
36. Keflavík Airport, Sunday 31 January,
37. C-17 Transport Plane, Atlantic Air Space, Sunday 31 January, 0500 GMT,
38. C-17 Transport Plane, Atlantic Air Space, Sunday 31 January, 0515 GMT,
39. C-17 Transport Plane, Atlantic Air Space, Sunday 31 January, 0545 GMT,
40. C-17 Transport Plane, Atlantic Air Space, Sunday 31 January, 0600 GMT,
41. C-17 Transport Plane, Atlantic Air Space, Sunday 31 January, 0615 GMT,
42. C-17 Transport Plane, Atlantic Air Space, Sunday 31 January, 0630 GMT,
43. Tómasarhagi, Reykjavík,
44. Tómasarhagi, Reykjavík,
45. Reykjavík, August,
Preview: Black Skies,

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Operation Napoleon: A Thriller 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
tedfeit0 More than 1 year ago
Long before there were Erlender and Sigurdur Oli, Arnaldur Indridason wrote this imaginative novel. In fact, it was copyrighted a decade ago, and only now has been published in Great Britain and Canada. [The next Reykjavic Murder Mystery, “Outrage,” was recently published in the UK) It is a pity we have had to wait this long for an English translation of this work, but all the more reason to be grateful that that has now been done. Just before the end of World War II a German bomber crashes on a large Icelandic glacier with American and German officers aboard. One of the senior German officers attempts to reach a nearby farm, while the others remain on the plane only to be buried by a blizzard and ice; then he disappears as well. Over 50 years later, after a few failed attempts to find the plane by U.S. intelligence, they are finally successful, and a secret mission is undertaken to remove the plane and its contents.. Coincidentally, two young Icelanders on the glacier in a training mission spot the Americans and are captured, one killed and the other seriously injured. Before the capture, one of the men had contacted his sister, Kristin. She undertakes to discover the truth of her brother’s fate, placing herself in danger in the process. The tense plot follows Kristin as she challenges the Americans in an effort to find out what happened to her brother, leading her on an arduous journey to learn the facts of Operation Napoleon. The descriptions of the various elements of the story are overwhelming: the freezing weather, the subterfuge of the Americans, the divergent views of Icelanders vis-à-vis relations with United States authorities, and other conflicts. Written with a sharpness to which we have become accustomed from this author, the novel is highly recommended.
777Grandma More than 1 year ago
This is a great thriller. It took me a couple of pages to get used to being in Iceland, and used to a few different terms for things, but once I got on the glacier and into the thriller, I was hooked. I loved the characters and the story. I will definitely look for another of his books.
BookLoverCT More than 1 year ago
I have read all of Arnaldur Indridason's books set in Iceland. The Reykjavik thrillers, starring Inspector Erlandur. All exciting stories. Then I saw that he also had this stand alone novel. It was equally good. I enjoy his writing.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Held my interest from beginning to end. Well written. Fast moving. May be a little unbelievable at times but it is fiction after all and adds to the suspense.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting but I think I liked his regular police books better.
Bob1486 More than 1 year ago
I very much enjoyed reading this book. It was hard to put down.