When Maria is found hanging from a beam in her holiday cottage at Lake Thingvallavatn is seems like a straightforward suicide. But when Karen, the friend who found her body, gives Erlendur a tape of a seance Maria had attended he becomes intrigued by the case.
Why did this woman end her life? Was she still grieving at the loss of her mother Leonora to cancer two years earlier, and was her history of depression perhaps caused by a long ago tragic boating accident that killed her father.
Erlendur preoccupied by her story starts an unofficial investigation, and at the same time looks into two separate thirty year old unsolved cases involving the disappearance of two young people.
Erlendur hopes at least to solve the mystery of the missing young man before his ailing father dies.
But Erlendur's search to find some answers to her suicide in Maria's tragic past uncovers some harsh realities, and make him think back once again to his own childhood trauma at the loss of his young brother in a storm on Mount Hardskafi.
"...was said to be left gloomy and withdrawn by his ordeal."
This is the sixth book in Arnaldur Indridason's award winning Erlendur series to be translated into English, this one by Victoria Cribb, who took over from the sadly deceased Bernard Scudder during the translation of the previous book Artic Chill.
Gripping and haunting are probably much overused terms when it comes to reviewing books, but each applies to this absolutely brilliant book. Not surprisingly it has been shortlisted for the 2010 CWA International Dagger, and was named as one of the Best Crime Books of the Decade by The Times.
Detective stories sometimes seem like you are peeling away the layers of an onion to get at the truth. In Hypothermia it is almost like you are watching a methodical detective doing a jigsaw puzzle putting together the pieces to solve a mystery, while at the same time as the author is constructing a superb crime fiction book by placing those jigsaw pieces perfectly on the page.
This is a melancholic story full of regret and sadness with Erlendur's own failings as a father and husband being reflected in the characters around him. His strained relationship with his daughter Eva Lind always plays a major part in the stories.
'Do you think you can ever forgive me?' Erlendur asked, looking at his daughter.
She didn't answer him but stared up at the sky with her arms behind her head and her legs crossed.
'I know people are responsible for their own fates,' she said at last.
I am not going to comment on which book should win the 2010 International Dagger until I have read all six shortlisted novels, but if delicious food is taken into consideration the Sicilian Andrea Camilleri may have the edge.
On the same shopping trip Erlendur had also bought some sour-lamb rolls, fatty breast meat on the bone and a portion of sheep's head in jelly that he kept in a tub of pickling whey out on his balcony.
Arnaldur Indridason's Hypothermia is a brilliant crime fiction novel that starts slowly and then draws the reader in to a beautifully constructed story. I can't recommend it highly enough as it is a wonderful addition to a superb series.