In 'The Sacrament’ by Olaf Olafsson, a nun investigates a mysterious death in Iceland

'The Sacrament'

‘The Sacrament’ by Olaf Olafsson, Ecco, 2019, 292 pages, $26.99


“The Sacrament” opens in 1987 with the brief account of a young student witnessing a harrowing death. From that point, the novel quickly focuses itself on the destructive nature of repression. It is a construct that Olaf Olafsson examines forthrightly in both the individual and in one of the basic underpinnings of nearly every civilization.

Because she has learned Icelandic fluently, Sister Johanna Marie, now a middle-aged French Catholic nun, has twice journeyed to Reykjavik to investigate charges of “misconduct.” During the first investigation, a priest named August Frans falls from the bell tower in the small parish that Sister Johanna Marie has been sent to by the church. His death is thought to be a suicide.