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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Arctic Chill. Arnaldur Indridason. Bernard Scudder & Victoria Cribb (Translators). Vintage Books (2005)


A compelling police procedural set in Iceland. A young boy is found stabbed to death in the playground of his housing complex. The son of a Thai immigrant, the question as to whether it was racially motivated dominate the investigation. Detective Erlendur and his colleagues, Sigurdur Oli and Elinborg pursue the investigation with care and thoroughness. Erlendur has a second case, that of a missing woman and the lonely dying of his police mentor on his mind as well. The reveals are very well staged, the investigation is thoughtful and very well structured, the conclusion is sharp, unexpected and horribly credible.
In the same way that a racially motivated murder colours the investigation it poses a significant problem for the story also. Arnaldur Indridason has to find a way to complex and social and political issue dramatically convincing without reducing it to blandness or polemic. For the most part he succeeds, while some of the cast are essentially mouthpieces required to provide a point of view, they are in the distinct minority. The non-police cast are given points of view and personalities that work on all levels.
The sub-plots provide a nice counter point to the main story and they give the cast some dramatic elbow room to develop more as characters and to provide a greater depth of context for the story. The setting in integral to the whole story, Reykjavik and Iceland itself are key aspects to the story. The writing is low key, Erlendur and Sigurdur Oli emerge as very engaging principals, they have interesting and unstreotypical private lives that gives them depth and weight. Deeply satisfying, a pleasure to read.

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