Arnaldur Indriðason

Two short reviews – September 2015

In an(other) effort to make a dent in the (ever-increasing) pile of books I’ve read but not yet reviewed below are two short reviews for The Domino Killer by Neil White and The Draining Lake by Arnaldur Indriðason.

91O4gmwxFPL._SL1500_Title – The Domino Killer

Author – Neil White

Published – July 2015

Genre – Crime fiction

A lawyer by profession Neil White has managed to find the time to write nine crime fiction novels and The Domino Killer is the third in his “Parker Brothers Trilogy”. The brothers are Sam (a detective constable) and Joe (a criminal defence lawyer) and the setting is Manchester.

The story is told from several points of view – that of Sam and Joe – as well as a mysterious killer. The story opens with the discovery of a man who has beaten to death in a local park and his murder becomes swiftly linked to another recent, and still unsolved, attack. At the same time Joe comes face-to-face with a man that he believes is linked to a tragedy in the brothers’ past.

The two threads progress with Sam involved in the police investigation and Joe undertaking some investigative work of his own. At the heart of the story is a deceit that Joe has been hiding since his teenage years and when he is forced to confess there is fallout that affects the relationship with his brother as well as his closest colleague.

While I enjoyed the story of the brothers which ends with some gripping action scenes I have to confess to having skipped a few passages (shock!!) but I’m not sure that it really needed more than 400 pages to tell the story. I was also at a disadvantage, and a victim of circumstance, in not having read the preceding titles in the series. I am curious if any mention is made in the earlier books about the brothers’ sister – perhaps it was a teaser that paid off in the final book – something people following the series would appreciate more than perhaps I did.

 

515tqOJGpWLTitle – The Draining Lake

Author – Arnaldur Indriðason (translated by Bernard Scudder)

Published – 2004 (2007 in translation)

Genre – Crime fiction

I stared reading this book before going to the inaugural Iceland Noir in 2013 and I finished it last month – so just shy of two years. Which I think will tell you something abut my feelings about this book and I realise that anything I say here will risk the friendship of the scandi/nordic crime fiction fans – but this was so dull!

The water levels in a lake in Iceland have dropped, exposing a skeleton alongside an old Russian radio transmitter. The mystery of the remains is investigated by Detective Erlendur and in the course of the investigation he meets a woman whose husband vanished in the 1960s. Erlendur’s obsession with those who are missing fuels his desire to find the man and he tracks down the car he was driving at the time of the disappearance and this leads him on a search for a missing hubcap.

Peppering the book is a second thread providing the backstory about a group of Icelandic students who went to study in Leipzig during in the 1950s.  The relevance of the narrator of these sections is kept hidden but it is clear that he became disenchanted with communism during the time in East Germany.

The story is a mystery and as Indriðason is committed to keeping a low body count in his books this means that it is more credible than many that feature serial killers, but it perhaps also explains a lack of pace. For me, however, the sense of loss that pervades the book, Erlendur’s dour demeanour and the grim experience of those in Leipzig made this an unrelentingly gloomy read.

1star1star1star

Voices – Arnaldur Indridason

Title – Voices
Author – Arnaldur Indriðason (translator Bernard Scudder)

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