Posts Tagged ‘Erlendur’

arctic chill

Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indridason, translated by Scudder/Cribb. Random House Canada, 2005/2008.

If The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a bit violent and misogynous for my taste, and The Cold Light of Mourning was as fluffy and light as cotton candy, Arctic Chill fits my taste in mysteries just right.

This is the fourth book I’ve read in this series that features police investigator Erlendur and his colleagues Elinborg and Sigurdur Oli. The unusual and interesting setting for the series is the small Icelandic city of Reykjavik. A quick check via Google shows that Indridason has written 9 Erlendur mysteries but not all of them have been translated into English. Erlendur is an oddly appealing character, although it is hard to put a finger on exactly what his charm is. He is a dour, uncommunicative man, often absorbed by his contemplations of his lost brother and his estranged children. Yet Erlendur is also intelligent, thoughtful, sympathetic. The cover of Arctic Chill includes a number of endorsements. The quote from Library Journal reads “Exceptional fiction that transcends its genre” and from writer Harlen Coben, “Gripping, authentic, haunting and lyrical”. For once, I have to agree with the often-exaggerated cover claims.

Arctic Chill begins with the discovery of the body of a dark-skinned 10 year old boy found outside a block of flats, frozen to the ground in a pool of his own blood. The boy, Elias, is of Thai heritage. His mother, Sunee, is Thai, while his father, now seperated from Sunee, is a native Icelander. While Elias was born in Iceland, his half-brother Niran immigrated to Iceland with his mother when he was nine years old. Unlike Elias, Niran has had a difficult time adapting to his new homeland. Now Niran has disappeared. With few clues to work with, the police must consider the possibility that the murder was racially-motivated. And where does Niran fit into events?

Although I enjoyed Arctic Chill, it was my least favorite of the four series titles I’ve read. I found the treatment of multi-culturalism and racism a bit heavy-handed. Further, compared to Canada, the level of immigration to Iceland is low, and I found it hard to sympathize with the issues expressed over what seem like small numbers. The story mentions that about 10 % of Icelanders are non-native-born. In Toronto, with a population of over 5 million people, about 49 % of residents are non-native-born.

Arctic Chill also offers less on the continuing storyline about Erlendur himself, and I missed that element. If you want to try an Erlendur novel, I would suggest starting with Silence of the Grave.

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