Arnaldur Indridason gets better and better book by book. Arctic Chill is Indridason's fifth book to be translated into English from Icelandic. It too features the singular Detective Erlendur Sveinsson, a stoic loner in some ways, backed by his colleagues Sigurdur Oli and Elinborg. And it too gives us glimpses of the lives of these police people. But the case is always on the centre stage, and the balance is good.
To me, Arctic Chill is Arnaldur Indridason’s best book so far, very close to a perfect crime novel, and confirms the author's status as one of the leading writers of police procedural crime novels. Indridason stands out from the crowd due to the quality of his writing. He has is a very simple style, but a fantastic sense of narrative structure and characterization. His writing also tends to be quite understated. If you enjoy Henning Mankell, Rankin, Jo Nesbo, or Stieg Larsson, you are likely to love reading Arnaldur Indridason as well.
Arctic Chill starts with the story of a young Thai/Icelandic boy, Elias, who is found frozen in the snow, stabbed to death, close to where he lives. And, as well, the boy's half-brother has disappeared; is he also a murder victim, or is he implicated in the killing? Erlendur also wonders whether there could be a racial motive to the murder.
The detectives are at a total loss, following theories and indications of the presence of anti-immigration sentiment, pedophilia, drug selling, and so forth, while being stonewalled by the family, the boy's school, and almost everyone they come into contact with. And for Erlendur the death of the young boy opens up memories of the traumatic death of his own young brother.
Erlendur and his team tries to find out who killed the boy and why he was killed. Eventually a previous case, involving a missing woman, enters into the investigation of the dead boy, and pieces start to fall together...
Arctic Chill is, in my opinion, about as good as great crime writing gets. It is a wonderful police procedural with living, real human policemen and -women in the centre, struggling with hard to interpret clues. The plot is good, the setting is interesting, and overall Arctic Chill is great entertainment.
The plot in Voices bears certain similarities to the plot in Gaston Leroux's 1908 mystery, The Mystery Of The Yellow Room, and to some other classical mysteries as well. However, Voices is much more psychologically penetrating in its approach than any of these. Yet another deeply satisfying tale of the odd Reykjavik inspector Erlendur Sveinson!
In Voices, by the excellent crime fiction writer Arnaldur Indridason, Santa - an employee named Gudlaugur - is found murdered in the basement of a stylish hotel in Reykjavik a few days before Christmas, and in a sexually compromising position: with his pants on his knees and a condom on his penis. The manager, understandably, is desperate to keep any whiff of scandal away from guests arriving to spend a cheery holiday amid reindeer and Icelandic hot springs.
Inspector Erlendur, who became known to crime readers when Indridason won the Gold Dagger for crime fiction with Silence of the Grave, is on another complicated case. Erlendur and his team investigate the death of this long-term employee, whom his colleagues neither noticed nor liked, against the disapproval and even hostility of the hotel staff. Erlendur, following some strange impulse, rather than return to his empty flat at the end of the first day of the investigation, takes a room at the hotel - perhaps more to spite the manager than anything else. It isn't a nice room and the heating doesn't work, but it forms the nucleus for the story over the few days that follow, as Erlendur quietly observes and absorbs the "voices" and rhythms of the hotel, and increasingly has to try to explain to various colleagues and his daughter why he isn't home for Christmas.
Erlendur, using the hotel room as his base, talks to and becomes acquainted with the staff of the hotel. He talks to the chambermaid who found the body, to a seedy British guest, to the manager, and the others. Along with a picture of the dead man emerges a picture of a hotel with layers and layers of secrets. So does the dead Gudlaugur.
Meanwhile, Elinborg, Erlendur's female assistant, works with a case where a small boy has repeatedly arrived in hospital with minor injuries, which give rise to suspicions of parental cruelty. This story is seamlessly intertwined with the main story, and creates a whole in Voices where the two cases reinforce one another into a study of childhood and consequences of childhood experiences and abuses. As well, Erlendur himself has lost a brother at an early age, and somehow we see how this has affected to relationship to his own drug-addict daughter.
Voices is another outstanding novel by Arnaldur Indridason. The story has well-developed characters that as a reader you are either drawn to and empathize with or feel appalled by. The text is spare and direct. The plot is well developed, complex and well paced. Indridason knows how to make you turn the pages. Reading Voices is very worthwhile.