3 06 2011

Hypothermia by Arnuldar Indridason

One cold autumn night, a woman is found hanging from a beam at her holiday cottage. At first sight, it appears like a straightforward case of suicide; María had never recovered from the death of her mother two years previously and she had a history of depression. But then the friend who found her body approaches Detective Erlendur with a tape of a séance that María attended before her death and his curiosity is aroused…

Driven by a need to find answers, Erlendur begins an unofficial investigation into María’s death. But he is also haunted by another unsolved mystery – the disappearance of two young people thirty years ago – and by his own quest to find the body of his brother, who died in a blizzard when he was a boy.

It’s not at all straightforward for Erlendur who remains a fascinating lead character. This series of admittedly often bleak Icelandic crime novels just seems to get better and better.

Chilling out

10 03 2011

Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indridason

On an icy January day the Reykjavik police are called to a block of flats where a body has been found in the garden: a young, dark-skinned boy, frozen to the ground in a pool of his own blood. The discovery of a stab wound in his stomach extinguishes any hope that this was a tragic accident. Erlendur and his team embark on their investigation with little to go on but the news that the boy’s Thai half-brother is missing. Is he implicated, or simply afraid for his own life? The investigation soon unearths tensions simmering beneath the surface of Iceland’s outwardly liberal, multicultural society. A teacher at the boy’s school makes no secret of his anti-immigration stance; incidents are reported between Icelandic pupils and the disaffected children of incomers; and, to confuse matters further, a suspected paedophile has been spotted in the area. Meanwhile, the boy’s murder forces Erlendur to confront the tragedy in his own past. Soon, facts are emerging from the snow-filled darkness that are more chilling even than the Arctic night.

An impressive yarn which sensitively addresses challenging social issues in the context of a crime investigation into a senseless murder of a young boy. Erlendur is a really intriguing lead and further complexities in his history emerge which add to the plot. Well-written and translated and nicely paced, the Indridason books continue to deliver the goods.

Bit of a drain

19 10 2010

The Draining Lake by Arnuldar Indridatson

From the 2007 Times review of the book:

In the 1960s, at the height of the cold war, someone killed a man and threw his body into the lake, where it lay undisturbed for almost four decades. Now the water level has fallen, exposing a skeleton weighed down by a radio transmitter made in the Soviet Union.

When the bones, half-buried in sand, are found by a hydrologist, she calls the police and triggers an investigation that leads back to a long-gone era of amateurish espionage and fake trade delegations. The way the body was disposed of suggests a cold-blooded execution, which is not the kind of crime Indridason’s detectives are used to investigating. “We’re Icelanders,” one of them protests. “The last execution in this country was done with an axe almost 200 years ago.”

Very good. I do enjoy these stories and the setting and the characters are extremely well drawn. Not high art but a really good yarn.

Voice over

18 08 2010

Voices by Arnuladur Indridason

Detective Erlendur encounters memories of his troubled past in this gripping and award-winning continuation of the “Reykjavik Murder Mysteries”. At a grand Reykjavik hotel the doorman has been repeatedly stabbed in the dingy basement room he called home. It is only a few days before Christmas and he was preparing to appear as Santa Claus at a children’s party. The manager tries to keep the murder under wraps. A glum detective taking up residence in his hotel and an intrusive murder investigation are not what he needs. As Erlendur quietly surveys the cast of grotesques who populate the hotel, the web of malice, greed and corruption that lies beneath its surface reveals itself. Everyone has something to hide. But most shocking is the childhood secret of the dead man who, many years before, was the most famous child singer in the country: it turns out to be a brush with stardom which would ultimately cost him everything. As Christmas Day approaches Erlendur must delve deeply into the past to find the man’s killer.

Another fun-filled outing for Erlendur the grim Icelandic detective. It’s a pretty unhappy tale in which Erlendur’s dysfunctional family inevitably features too. Nevertheless, still pretty good stuff and well worth a go.


5 05 2010

Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason

A man is found murdered in his Reykjavik flat. There are no obvious clues apart from a cryptic note left on the body and a photograph of a young girl’s grave. Detective Erlendur is forced to use all the forensic resources available to find any leads at all. Delving into the dead man’s life he discovers that forty years ago he was accused of an appalling crime. Did his past come back to haunt him? Finally, Erlendur’s search leads him to Iceland’s Genetic Research Centre in order to find the disturbing answers to the mystery.

Actually rather good this one. Erlendur is an engaging lead, despite the absence of any defining musical or other quirks. He does though have a daughter who is a drug addict and a difficult divorce behind him. The plot is nicely developed and moves along pretty well. Worth a read and another good strand to the Scandinavian crime writing scene.

Sounds of Silence

13 01 2010

Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indridason

Building work in an expanding Reykjavik uncovers a shallow grave. Years before, this part of the city was all open hills, and Erlendur and his team hope this is a typical Icelandic missing person scenario; perhaps someone once lost in the snow, who has lain peacefully buried for decades. Things are never that simple. Whilst Erlendur struggles to hold together the crumbling fragments of his own family, his case unearths many other tales of family pain. The hills have more than one tragic story to tell: tales of failed relationships and heartbreak; of anger, domestic violence and fear; of family loyalty and family shame. Few people are still alive who can tell the story, but even secrets taken to the grave cannot remain hidden forever.

First book I’ve read by Indridason and it’s pretty good really. Beyond Erlendur, whose family really is shattered, the characterisation is a bit thin but the narrative is well-paced and the flashbacks work well. A good read and looking forward to others in the series.

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