Monday, July 05, 2010

Hypothermia by Arnaldur Indridason

I've been waiting somewhat impatiently for the next Henning Mankell novel to come in at the library -- apparently I'm not the only person in my city who is hunting for other good Swedish writers after finishing Larsson's "Millenium" series! Mankell's books have grown on me slowly; after the first one, I definitely wanted to read more, and after the second, I felt like something was missing when I wasn't able to pick up the third right away. The librarians were able to suggest a number of other titles for me to try by good Scandinavian writers, and this one was the first I picked up.

"Hypothermia" is a crime novel with a bit of a twist, because the book doesn't center around a murder but instead, a suicide. The detective, Erlandur, has a hunch about this suicide, though, and with dogged persistence he probes at the dead woman's friends and family members, sure that there is some hidden, more sinister reason why she ended her own life. This persistent investigating uncovers the victim's obsession with the afterlife and near-death experiences, which gives a somewhat creepy air to the novel. Meanwhile, Erlandur is determined to close the books on two very cold missing-persons cases which his colleagues have long since decided aren't worth investigating.

I have tried other Icelandic authors - most memorably Halldor Laxness, whose Nobel prize winner, "Independent People", I wasn't able to finish - but found the books and their characters remote, dreary and forbidding (perhaps the novels of this country are much like the landscape?). However, this novel was a winner, with a great detective. Erlandur is a typical crime-novel hero in a lot of ways, with his failed marriage, lonely life and single-minded determination about his job, but he never felt like a cookie-cutter character. The cold and remote Icelandic landscape definitely plays a role in this book but never to the point where the characters themselves feel cold and remote, too. I understand this title is actually the eighth in the series so I will be happy to go back and read more from Arnaldur.

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