17 January 2009

Review: ARCTIC CHILL, Arnaldur Indridason

Harvill Secker, 2008, ISBN 978-1-846-55065-2, 344 pages. Translated from Icelandic by Bernard Scudder and Victoria Cribb.

Set in Reyjavik, Iceland. A young boy of Asiatic appearance is discovered dead near the flats where he lives. He is frozen to the ground in a pool of his own blood, with a stab wound to the stomach. A theme that runs through the story is the tensions between native Icelanders and incomers, particularly those who are noticeably different.

A teacher of Icelandic language at the boy's school believes such incomers have no place in Iceland. Erlendur has to decide whether the boy has been the victim of racial bigotry, perhaps perpetrated by another student at the school, or is the recent sighting of a possible paedophile in the neighbourhood significant?

Reyjavik is a relatively warm oasis in the harsh Icelandic landscape. Icelandic men go off to warm places like Thailand, have a good time, and then bring back with them new wives. You can almost hear Indridason thinking about this dilution of the Icelandic genetic pool. You may like to read Indridason's first novel translated into English JAR CITY (aka TAINTED BLOOD) to see the full significance of that.

For Erlendur though the boy's death stirs once again memories of the death of another little boy, his own brother, also the victim of the harsh Icelandic climate. There are questions about Bergur's death that were never answered.

ARCTIC CHILL develops and expands Erlendur's own character for Indridason's readers, as well as those who have made appearances as part of Erlendur's investigative team throughout the series. This novel will cement his following.

My rating: 4.8

ARCTIC CHILL is the 5th of Indridason's novels translated into English.
During this translation Bernard Scudder, the translator, died suddenly at the age of 53. Bernard has I think been the translator of all the books.

In 2005 Indridason won the CWA Gold Dagger for SILENCE OF THE GRAVE
However ARCTIC CHILL has emblazoned across both front and back covers (see the image on the top right of this page) - WINNER OF THE CWA GOLD DAGGER.
In my book that's misleading advertising, even though ARCTIC CHILL did appear in many "tops" lists in 2008.

My earlier reviews

A man is found murdered in his Reykjavik flat, a cryptic note left on his body. Erlendur, Detective Inspector with the Reykjavik police investigates. The investigation of the dead man's past reveals 40 year old accusations of rape and the murder begins to reach out like an octopus into Iceland's past and its present. We learn much about Icelandic society, and about how police investigations are carried out. There are some interesting side plots such as Erlendur's relationship with his drug-addicted daughter Eva Lind, his son Sindri Snaer, and his retired colleague Marion Briem. The investigation moves at a good pace and raises some interesting ethical questions. My rating 4.9

SILENCE OF THE GRAVE by Arnaldur Indridason
Building work on the outskirts of Reykajavik (Iceland) uncovers a body possibly buried alive during World War Two. Erlendur and his team are called in to investigate and try to uncover the truth while a team of archaeologists slowly and painstaking exhume the skeleton. Those who still live in the area tell of a young pregnant woman who disappeared in the war, but is it her? An elderly dying man talks of the green woman who was crooked. At the same time Erlendur is re-living his past - his daughter Eva Lind lies in a coma in the local hospital after a miscarriage and an old woman asks him why he is carrying a young boy around with him. The construction of this novel is intricate and it is almost impossible to solve the mysteries until the very end. Indridason draws into it a fascinating local legend about an orgy at the local gasworks on the night Halley's comet nearly struck the earth in 1910. Translated into English from Icelandic in 2005.
My rating: 5

VOICES, Arnaldur Indridason, rating 5.0
The doorman at a Reykjavik hotel who doubles every year as Santa at Christmas parties in the hotel is found dead by one of the hotel maids, stabbed to death, in his squalid basement room. Christmas is fast approaching and the detective Erlendur is confronted by the problem of how or even if he is going to celebrate Christmas. Is there anything to celebrate? Strangely he moves into the hotel while the investigation of the murder is carried out just feeling he can't go back to his flat. This is Indridason's 3rd novel to be translated into English. It was originally published in 2003 and made it into English in 2006. Erlendur of course eventually solves the murder mystery but along the way we learn a lot about the ghosts of his own past, and gain insight into his relationship with his drug-addicted daughter Eva Lind. And even in the last 10 pages we are still juggling candidates for the killer.

THE DRAINING LAKE by Arnaldur Indridason
After an earth tremor, the water level in an Icelandic lake begins to drop as water drains out through fissures in the lakes bed. Eventually it drops low enough to reveal the skeleton of a murder victim, probably there for a number of years and anchored to a piece of Russian radio equipment. The search for the identity of this person is a fairly lengthy and tedious process but murders and missing persons are pretty rare in Iceland where everybody knows everybody. Woven into the murder investigation is the story of idealistic young Icelandic socialists, party members chosen to be educated at university in Leipzig in East Germany, and then also more about Erlendur's own family and his children who flit in and out of his life. Originally published in Icelandic in 2004, the 4th of Indridason's books to be translated into English.
My rating: 4.7

Other Reviews:


Joy said...

I am STILL trying to get to this series. Hopefully - this year! :) Thanks for the encouragement.

Corey Wilde said...

I'm really looking forward to reading ARCTIC CHILL. Every book in this series has been wonderful.

Bogsider said...

Islandic literature is quite the buzz in Denmark, but I haven't gotten around to read any. Thanks for some amazing reviews. I think I should begin look around for some Australian writers as I see so many Australian bloggers reading Nordic books, and I rarely do that myself, as I'd rather read in English. Hmmm. I do read SOME Nordic books, though, so it is not completely true. Any suggestions of great Australian writers?

kimbofo said...

I've just ordered this one from Amazon... I've read all the others in the series, so am really looking forward to it.

Dorte H said...

Oh, I didn´t realize there was already a new Erlendur story! Another one to put on my library list. By the way, I came across another Icelandic crime writer recently, Jon Hallur Stefansson, but the quality was nothing near Indridason.

Kerrie said...

The series is well worth reading in order Joy. As with most series you get character development and become familiar with the background of most of the characters.

Bogsider have a look at http://paradise-mysteries.blogspot.com/2009/01/ozmysteryreaders-announce-top-reads-for.html for starters. The main problem with getting Australian books overseas is that quite often their publishers don't get overseas deals.

Cory and kimbofo - night to see some other "converts"

Dorte - thanks for the information. Have you seen Barbara Fister's site?

Dorte H said...

Now I have! - thanks for the link.


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