Published – 2006 (paperback)
Genre – Crime
It was an odd coincidence that no sooner had I read Last Rituals, then I receive a free copy of another Icelandic murder mystery. This is the third translation in the “Detective Erlendur” series.
It is a few days before Christmas and Reykjavik doorman and occasional Santa Claus, Gudlauger, has been found stabbed to death in his hotel room in a sexually compromising position. It soon becomes apparent that both staff and guests have something to hide, but it is the dead man who has the most shocking secret.
Detective Erlendur soon discovers that the placidly affluent appearance of the hotel covers a multitude of sins.
While investigating the murder of “Santa” there are several other stores being told. We find out that Erlendur has an interest in the stories of people who freeze to death outdoors, he has a troubled daughter who is an ex drug-user and there is a case going to court concerning a young boy who was badly beaten. These all seem to share a theme of childhood and how childhood experiences shape people as adults. So there’s a lot going on – but all of it very dark. In fact one of my criticisms would be how dark & depressing everything was. I obviously don’t read crime fiction for the laughs, but most authors manage to inject a little humour here & there. I also felt at a little bit of a loss in the use of Icelandic names, as it took a little while to realise which of the detectives were men & which were women – it was a bit distracting.
In following the main mystery of the murder of Gudlauger the investigation focussed on the fact that he had been a child star but, except for the obvious clue to the reader in the prologue, I couldn’t really see a good reason for the police taking this tack so quickly. While this provided important background for the story I thought the plot was weak in explaining why the police should be so interested. Despite this it’s a good police procedural with a relatively small cast of suspects, a few red herrings, and not too many coincidences.
It’s done no favours for the Icelandic tourist board, though, and I won’t be hunting out any more books by Indriðason – too many others to read first!
Score – 3/5