Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, April 2015
Arnaldur Indridason Arctic Chill (2005), Eng transl. 2008.
An excellent website for Indridason is Crime fiction lovers.
I think I’ve read all of these Icelandic crime novels featuring the depressive, gloomy and anti-social Inspector Erlandur and his underlings Sigidur Oli and Elinborg. Erlandur is obsessed by and guilty for losing hold of his younger brother in a blizzard when he was a child. He is also upset by his relationship with his drug addict daughter and estranged son. He feels guilty for his indifference to them, but also powerless to do much about it. Despite all this Erlandur is a rather endearing point of view character.
This book is about the murder of a young Thai boy and explores the issues of racism and immigration in Iceland. It is perhaps not as good as others I’ve read. I was struck by the formulaic relationships and the casual description of his obsession with the past in this novel. But, perhaps this is because I have read the rest of his crime novels before this one.
Nevertheless, I am fond of Indridason, partly because of the obsessive Erlandur and also his colleagues, children and difficulty with social relationships. He is a typical police detective obsessed with his work to the exclusion of all else. The human situations revealed also appear real and part of the darker underbelly of life. The stories are enhanced by the setting of Iceland itself. The landscape is foreign and exotic. Iceland and Icelandic culture are unknown, so distant from everywhere else in the world that an atmosphere of other permeates the books.
Indridason’s other books are Jar City, Silence of the grave, Voices, The draining lake, Hypothermia, Outrage, Black skies, Strange shores, Reykjavic nights.
The first four listed are my favourites, perhaps because they were the first I read.
In Jar City 2004 we are first introduced to Erlandur, his boss Marion and his two sidekicks. An old loner is found murdered in his decrepit flat. The killer has left a note and a photograph of a child’s grave. The denouement following a trail of evidence leads to a high-tech genetics lab and a tense showdown with the killer (see website above). The novel won a Glass Key Award for Scandinavian Crime Fiction.
In Silence of the grave 2005, a body is found in a shallow grave in an old Reykjavik town that is being dug up for new suburbs. The body is quite old. ‘Indradison masterly weaves past and present and more than a few surprises… as we discover the identity of the body, the killer and witness.’ In a sub-plot, Erlandur struggles somewhat ineffectually to save his daughter Eva Lind from herself and her drug habit (see website above). The novel also won a Glass Key Award and the CWA International Dagger Award.
In Voices it’s Christmas and the doorman of an upmarket hotel is found murdered in the basement. Erlandur to the surprise of his colleagues stays in the hotel over-Xmas to investigate. The victim was once a promising boy soprano, whose fate could have been greatness but ended in tragedy. Erlander seeks answers among the staff, in the man’s troubled past and from an avid collector of choirboy recordings. The website above says: ‘this case is one of the most poignant stories found in Scandinavian fiction.’
In The draining lake, a skeleton is found because the lake is slowly draining after an earthquake. The body was weighted down by a Cold War era spying device. The story of the investigation runs parallel to the perpetrator’s backstory of love and betrayal in East Germany (see website above).
Also there are his first published Erlandur book Sons of Dust and his second Silent Kill, which haven’t been translated and some other stand alone books including Operation Napoleon. Wikipedia provides a biography.
I would recommend reading all of his crime novels.
Key words: Arnaldur Indridason, Inspector Erlandur, Sigidur Oli, Elinborg, Scandinavian crime fiction, Reykjavik, Iceland, Jar City, Silence of the grave, Voices, The draining lake, Arctic chill, Hypothermia, Outrage, Black skies, Strange shores, Reykjavic nights.