Sunday, October 12, 2008


What a week! I was at the chiropodist on Tuesday when the next patient came in and said "Iceland's gone bust!" 
"The supermarket?" we chorused. 
"No, the bl****** country!"

Anyone who had invested or deposited money in Icelandic banks had obviously not watched the film Jar City based on Arnaldur Indridason's prize winning book [Tainted Blood in the UK] and seen what a bleak place it is. Fast food joints selling Erlendur's usual evening meal of 'sheep's head' are not a sign of massive wealth.
A letter in this Saturday's Daily Telegraph from a Emory Troops[who had lived in Iceland twenty years ago] informed readers that 'unless one wants seafood or sweaters one might have as well put their money in the National Bank of Zimbabwe'. 

If Iceland's banking system and financiers have proved unreliable, that cannot be said for their crime writers.

I have just finished reading Arnaldur Indridason's  police procedural Arctic Chill in which Erlendur, Sigurdur Oli and Elinborg investigate the death of a young Thai-Icelandic boy, whose Thai half brother has gone missing.
This superb novel gives us an account of the investigation while identifying the tensions that exist  between new immigrants from Asia and the small Icelandic indigenous population. Many of the Icelanders feel that their culture will be destroyed by the incomers who themselves find it hard to cope with the language and the harsh weather. Other issues are introduced with the possible presence in the vicinity of a paedophile, marital infidelity,  and the death of Erlendur's old boss Marion Briem.
We also learn a bit more about the  detectives, Erlendur's continual struggle with past problems and Sigurdur Oli's deteriorating relationship with Bergothora. 
A separate case involving the search for a missing woman reminds Erlendur of his younger brother lost in a blizzard and as common in crime fiction the cases become interlinked as the satisfying but thought provoking conclusion is reached. 
This is crime fiction at its best and you can read two excellent reviews and comments by Maxine of Petrona here and here and by  Glenn Harper of International Noir here.

What I found fascinating about Arctic Chill was that Indridason did not need a very complicated crime to interest his readers. A seemingly mundane, but terrible, crime became a tool for covering so many incidents and ideas that he was able to draw the reader into the story with interesting realistic characters such as Sunee, the victim's Thai mother and Kjartan, the bigoted teacher. 

Arnaldur Indridason's usual translator Bernard Scudder died tragically young last year and the translation of Arctic Chill was completed very successfully by Victoria Cribb.

'.....and she talked about how Icelanders were a bit reserved compared to Thais. ........... 'And the weather's not quite the same', Elinborg said.

I will definitely be on the lookout for the next Arnaldur Indridason book. You can read an interview with the author here


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good catch about the weather, Norm! I forgot that one.
I was thinking during the past week that Arnaldur is not short of motivations and plots for his next novel!
I think you have hit on a very interesting and true comment: the simplicity of the novel. Simplicity yet depths that the reader can find for him/her self. This is a hallmark of the excellent Sjowell/Wahloo books and many other egs of Scandinavian crime fiction - the stories are simple, but have great depth. Karin Fossum is perhaps "the" modern master at this "deep simplicity"????

1:05 PM  

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