Odin’s labyrinth is a thriller about the young student Mathias who, during a stay in London, gets tangled up in a dangerous and mysterious line of events which has its roots in the origins of Christianity and Norse mythology. Through his research on runes amongst other things, he stumbles across proof that Odin truly did exist and that the myth of Jesus is based on this figure from Norse mythology. In other words: the stories about Jesus are not true. Throughout history these facts have been concealed by clandestine, Catholic brotherhoods willing to kill to preserve the secret. Now the question is whether Mathias is also in danger.
The author has carried out extensive research and the hypotheses of the novel are based on historical sources.
The beginning and the end
A young man finds himself lying unconscious in a flowerbed in a garden behind a large, red-brick house in South Kensington, London.
Part 1 – The Early Tales
Mathias Hviid receives an old notebook in the post; inside it is a note (an invitation) which at first glance appears to have been written by Lucian Whitmore, an aging London artist. Together the notebook and the invitation represent an offer which cannot be turned down.
The notebook is a handwritten extract from a very old and uncompleted manuscript; a manuscript which can alter our perception of Christianity. The manuscript (or perhaps rather the knowledge behind it) has caused the death of several of its previous authors.
Mathias is a student at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense but is more absorbed by his work at the university library. He lives with his mother (Birgitte) who is suffering from a split personality. Mathias never quite knows which half of her he will encounter on any given day. He has always looked upon the dark side of his mother’s personality as his father, as it seems as though he has never existed. As a child, Mathias came across some very detailed journals about and by his mother. In her youth, Birgitte, fleeing her own childhood, ended up at the house of two deformed twins whom she refers to as one and the same person. These journals gave him an insight no child could deal with. As he matures he realises that they contain the explanation for his mother’s divided persona. At the same time, it dawns on him that the books conceal an evil he always imagined was merely a shadow, but the shadow lives quite close to him.
Scattered throughout the little notebook Whitmore has sent him, Mathias finds several notes which reveal that something has been chasing the author of the notebook; something terrifying from which he tried desperately to conceal his work. Mathias senses the connection between his mother, the twins, Whitmore, the death of the author of the manuscript.
In a biography Mathias discovers two notes; the one implies that Whitmore is not Whitmore at all, but rather the chieftain or deity of a historical order, the other note maintains that prior to World War II unknown sources claimed that two stillborn, deformed boys were born along with Whitmore. This is refuted again, but the idea has fixed itself in Mathias’s mind.
This chapter is about Mathias’ decision to go to London plus the journey itself and his arrival in South Kensington at the large, old house which has been unaltered for almost 200 years. In this chapter we meet Whitmore’s housekeeper and Lucian Whitmore himself. Whitmore is a strange, old man of 89. He is thin and frail with almost translucent, white skin, but at the same time possessed of an incredible knowledge and inner strength. The house is an old, English townhouse on several storeys, full of dark, old panels, carvings and secret rooms. The housekeeper (Martha) is not quite as old as Whitmore, but almost. She has a grandchild who occasionally comes over to help with the house and the garden.
As the novel progresses, we learn more about Whitmore and his background which both frightens and fascinates.
This chapter must not be revealed before reading the book.
We are introduced to Lucian Whitmore by the man himself, as well as through Mathias’ experiences in the house and in Whitmore’s company. Lucian Whitmore has always lived a double life as a consequence of a dark legacy unknown to the public. Whitmore, who has lived in the house in South Kensington all his life, is a very wealthy man and a most renowned artist. He can look back on a long life in which he has portrayed people as they are – sweaty, wrinkled, fat, blotched etc. – often nude and slightly repulsive. His motif of choice has always been ugly or tormented people. Whitmore has some deep and far-reaching secrets which must be set free before he and his spirit can let go of life.
Mathias discovers a hatchway behind a cupboard. A cold, rotten stench emerges from the hatchway. Mathias ended up by the cupboard after following a sombre figure through the dark house, a figure which appeared in his room while he was sleeping. The figure is gone, but what lurks behind the hatchway and what makes the stench?
Part 2 – The Great Tales
This most substantial part of the novel consists of 28 chapters. They are the large, middle section of tales where we move between Whitmore’s accounts of a fatal love affair between Christian Rottbøll and Charlotte Hadding in 1897, and Mathias’s absorption with the old and potentially lethal manuscript. Apart from the tales we explore Mathias’ relationship with the apparently dying Whitmore. We follow Mathias’ search for truth in everything he hears from Whitmore and in everything he discovers for himself, reads about and experiences in the old house.
Whitmore’s secrets stretch from the present back to the year 1897 when the manuscript in its current form was begun. The manuscript revolves around research that may alter the perception of the origin of the Nordic peoples and their runes and have tremendous consequences for large parts of the world by shaking the foundations of Christianity. Mathias reads extracts of the manuscript to Whitmore and consequently becomes involved with working on it.
The hub of the two parallel storylines in this part of the novel is the relationships between the people involved: the living, the shadows and the dead; relationships that evolve and complicate things. On a personal level, Mathias gradually discovers that his acquaintance with Whitmore is a threat to his own identity.
Part 3 – The Last Tales
Mathias does discover that which can change the way the world is perceived by many people, if it were ever made public. However, old and very powerful forces have always fought to conceal it and they will continue to do so.
Whereas creepiness, darkness and death have been lurking just below the surface in the first two parts of the book, here they erupt into the daylight.