Sunday, 11 March 2012

Hypothermia: Arnaldur Indridason (Iceland)

One cold autumn night, a woman is found hanging from a beam at her holiday cottage. At first sight, it appears like a straightforward case of suicide; María had never recovered from the death of her mother two years previously and she had a history of depression. But then the friend who found her body approaches Detective Erlendur with a tape of a séance that María attended before her death and his curiosity is aroused…Driven by a need to find answers, Erlendur begins an unofficial investigation into María’s death. But he is also haunted by another unsolved mystery – the disappearance of two young people thirty years ago – and by his own quest to find the body of his brother, who died in a blizzard when he was a boy. Hypothermia is Indridason’s most compelling novel yet.

This is the latest installment in the so-called Reykjavik murder mysteries series featuring detective Erlendur and his team. I have read all the previous ones and enjoyed them each tremendously, getting to know the characters as they slowly unfold. For me, it is definite boon to read a book that is set in a familar location, and Iceland to me is very familiar indeed. I have visited five times now and got to know the country reasonably well - both city and country. Reading about places that you are familar with, and understanding the Icelandic pysche as I do adds more depth to the story, and for me at least, makes these books a much more interesting read as I can relate to the characters that much more.

Each book in the series has then for me, been successively better than the last, and this one I am pleased to say was no exception. As the preview says, a  woman whose mother has recently died, and who has a history of depression, is found hanging in her holiday cottage. The friend who found the body hands Erlendur a tape of the deceased speaking to a medium and so a chain reaction of events is set in motion that leads Erlendur to undertake some unofficial investigations of his own. These investigations ultimately lead him to realise that this apparent suicide is not necessary what it seems, and in the process, he also manages to solve some other unrelated crimes.

I won't go into too much detail as to exactly what does happen, for it will only ruin it for those who wish to read it for themselves. Suffice to say that the woman's home life is not what it seems, and her apparently grieving and supportive husband is harbouring secrets of his own, secrets of a misspent youth that lead Erlendur to uncover a darker, more sinister crime.

Interwoven are snippets about Erlendur's own life, and his troubled relationship with his ex wife and their two children, particularly his daughter, who is recovering drug addict. As in all good stories, Erlendur has secrets of his own, and as this series has progressed, we have got to know the man himself and what makes him the introverted and somewhat dark character that he is - not unlike the majority of Icelanders that I have known, who too have their dark side.

I guess you would have to know a little about Iceland to get the most from these books, but if you have no previous knowledge of the country, then these are an excellent way of helping you to understand what makes the Icelandic people tick.

This is the sixth out of seven installments that have so far been published, and I will miss Erlendur when I read the final book. I hope that many more will be written, but I guess I will have to wait and see.

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