The name Arnaldur Indriðason conjures up the Silence of the Grave on my shelf who won the author the prestigious CWA Gold Dagger award in 2005. I have not read any of his book yet.
I was hoping to read something more exciting that brings back my reading mojo and crime fiction usually do the trick. When I saw this on Netgalley, I requested it and a very big thanks to people at Random House UK for responding so quickly and approve my request overnight.
Reading a book about Iceland puts me in a good mood and score an advantage for Indriðason, because I am determined to like it. For the first time perhaps, I am ahead of the pack as Google says there doesn’t seem to be anyone reviewing the book except for the 3 at Amazon.co.uk. This is the final novel in Arnaldur Indriðason’s long-running Reykjavik series of books featuring Detective Erlunder, I guess I am starting from the end and will work by way back to the beginning, if that make sense.
A young woman walks into the frozen fjords of Iceland, never to be seen again. It was the same event where a group of 60 young British servicemen went missing in a snowstorm January 1942. All servicemen was accounted for, dead or alive except for Matthildur.
60 years later, haunted by a tragic event of losing his younger brother Bergur (Beggi) in a snowstorm in his childhood, Detective Erlendur is going back to his childhood town to look for some answers of his brother and also the case of missing Matthildur. Detective Erlunder, led by Matthildur’s sister Hrund, spoken to many people and doggedly tracks the course of events leading to the woman’s disappearance, stirring up some uncomfortable truths and uncovering the wounds of the past in a controlled manner. It seems Matthildur leaves in her wake rumours of lies, betrayal and revenge.
He was in possession of knowledge that he could never forget, and it was natural that he should at least look for explanation. It was not his aim to punish or to fill the prisons with unfortunate souls. His sole intention was to uncover the truth in every case, to track down what was lost and forgotten.
The chapters alternate between current events and reminiscence of the past, Erlunder’s memory of the days leading up to the tragedy and also flashbacks of people that he had spoken to. The case is 60 years old, the people who are directly involved are long dead and buried. Erlunder uses local council archive and trace the sons and daughters of people who are involved to find some answers. There is also a frequent mention of Erlunder’s recurring strange dream about a mysterious traveller.
Indriðason’s writing reminds me of Håkan Nesser’s. In my warm August I felt the frozen and beautiful landscape of Iceland, in the midst of a grisly murder, I find this novel with so much heart and human compassion. There is a sense of tranquility on the surface with a sinister undercurrent. Although the books are strewn with plenty coincidences, filled with hoarders who kept criminal evidences in their garages and stores and lots of Icelandic names that I couldn’t pronounced (try this: Fáskrúðsfjörður!), they are all minor quibbles compared to the mastery of Indriðason’s plotting and story telling.
At the end, Detective Erlunder is faced with a dilemma as the past begins to surrender its secrets, does he reveal the crime or not? Is it better for the secrets to stay buried? Erlendur uncovers a story about the limits of human endurance, and went out of his way to uncover the truth. I was truly satisfied with the end; albeit very tidy, but nonetheless a befitting ending.
I don’t think reading this out of turn as your first Detective Erlunder series saps the joy out of reading it, in fact it strengthens my resolution to read the Detective Erlunder’s series. This novel proves that Arnaldur Indriðason novels are my kind of Scandi-noir.
Better late than never, I’d say.
I thank the publisher for giving me this review copy, in exchange for an honest opinion.
E-book. Print length: 304 pages. Publisher: Harvill Secker, Aug 15, 2013. Source: Netgalley. Setting: Iceland. Finished reading at: 17 August 2013. Translated brilliantly from Icelandic by Victoria Cribb.
About the writer:
Arnaldur Indriðason was born in Reykjavík on 28 January 1961, the son of writer Indriði G. Þorsteinsson. He graduated with a degree in history from the University of Iceland (Háskóli Íslands) in 1996. He worked as a journalist for the newspaper Morgunblaðið from 1981 to 1982, and later as a freelance writer. From 1986 to 2001, he was a film critic for Morgunblaðið.
His first book, Sons of Dust (Synir duftsins) came out in 1997, the first in the series with Detective Erlendur. The first two novels in the series have not yet been translated into English. Arnaldur is considered one of the most popular writers in Iceland in recent years. In 2004, his books were 7 of the 10 most popular titles borrowed in Reykjavík City Library. In 2006, his Erlendur novel Mýrin was made into a film, known internationally as Jar City, by Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur.
Arnaldur’s books have been published in 26 countries and translated into at least 21 languages.
Arnaldur received the Glass Key award, a literature prize for the best Nordic crime novel, in 2002 and 2003. He won the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger Award in 2005 for his novel Silence of the Grave.