Monday, April 26, 2010
Arctic Chill, by Arnaldur Indridason
Here we are at book five of six featuring Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson, and I couldn't stand the suspense of waiting for #6 in the Reykjavik Murder Mystery series (Hypothermia) to come out in the US so I bought it from the UK. But then I wonder how long I'm going to have to wait for the next one. Oh well. This series is worth it completely.
As usual, Indridason delivers another good story here...not just a good mystery, but his insights into Iceland as a place and into its problems add to the entire series as a whole.
Just a brief synopsis first: During a very cold Icelandic winter, a young boy, the son of a Thai immigrant and her Icelandic husband, is found dead in front of his apartment building, with his body stuck to its own pool of blood. To make matters worse, it seems that his older brother is missing. As Erlendur and his team (Sigurdur Oli & Elinborg) start to work on the case, several theories present themselves -- was it a crime based on racism? Or was it the work of a pedophile known to be back in the area? Or, even worse, did the missing brother have anything to do with the young boy's death? While all of this is going on, Erlendur is also battling with the case of a woman who disappeared -- and both cases are bringing back his memories of his lost brother.
As anyone who reads Scandinavian crime fiction knows, these authors incorporate their own commentary (via plotline) about current social issues & problems in their respective countries. One of the themes prevalent in this novel is that of the problems of immigration in Iceland, which Indridason handles very skillfully. It's not just a question of how native Icelanders feel about immigration, but he also reveals the problems faced by immigrants who go there - for example lack of language skills that hinder their ability to fully become members of Icelandic society, and the fact that families bring older children into the country who tend to have problems fitting in with the rest of their peer groups because they feel out of place. Indridason shows the feelings on both sides of the issue, treating the subject with a great deal of fairness toward each.
As always, Indridason's writing, his sense of place, his character development and his ability to create well-constructed plots are all in top form here. However, while I understand that Erlendur's missing brother is one of those dark parts of his life that make him tick and make him who he is, and explains why he's fascinated with missing persons cases, and that this case of the two brothers reminds him of his own sad past, I feel I must point out that regular readers of this series already know all of this. Is the author maybe throwing this in for people who haven't yet read these books?
Overall, another good one by Indridason, whose entire Erlendur series is highly intelligent, making him one of those authors whose works I just can't wait to get my hands on. My advice: read them in order because these characters are not static and unchanging, but rather they are dynamic and becoming more human with every installment. Recommended to people who like Scandinavian crime fiction as well as mystery readers who want intelligence in their crime.