Hypothermia, by Arnaldur Indridason

Arnaldur Indridason

Arnaldur Indridasonwas born in 1961. He is son of writer Indridi G. Torsteinsson. He worked at an Icelandic newspaper, first as a journalist and then for many years as a reviewer. He lives in Reykjavik with his wife and three children.

Arnaldur Indridason won the Nordic Crime Novel Award (the Glass Key) for Jar City and the following year he won again for its sequel, Silence of the Grave, winner of the 2005 CWA Gold Dagger Award.

So far he has published these books in the series about Detective Erlendur:

  • Synir duftsins (Sons of Dust, 1997)
  • Dauðarósir (Silent Kill, 1998)
  • Mýrin (Tainted Blood, also known as Jar City, 2000)
  • Grafarþögn (Silence of the Grave, 2001)
  • Röddin (Voices, 2003)
  • Kleifarvatn (The Draining Lake, 2004)
  • Vetrarborgin (Arctic Chill, 2005)
  • Harðskafi (Hypothermia, 2007)
  • Myrká (Outrage, 2008)
  • Svörtuloft (2009)
  • Furðustrandir (2010)
He has also written three other novels:
  • Napóleonsskjölin (Operation Napoleon, 1999)
  • Bettý (2003)
  • Konungsbók (The King's Book, 2006)

Iceland is a strange, austere and beautiful place. And the prize winning Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason is some ways like his country – strange and surprising, somewhat austere in his writing style, but beautiful as well, with an ability to evoke sentiments and create a desire to read his stories. Hypothermia, by Arnaldur Indridason And Erlendur - the detective in this and the other books in the Reykjavik Murder Mystery series - is Indridason and Iceland as well – thoughtful, compassionate, with some strong inbuilt desire to resolve old criminal cases and disappearances. And as usual, the inter linkages between past and present and perhaps even reality and supernatural, complex as they may be, are made gradually explicit, exposed and made understandable as we follow this strange yet so likable man in his investigation and his somewhat deductive but so complex reasoning in this mystical, magical tour of a story.

In Hypothermia Erlendur’s gloomy, perhaps even somewhat miserable life is showing signs of improving. He seems to be finally moving on from his infernal diet of micro waved food. As well, there are at least some signs that there may be improvements ahead for his children. But Erlendur – and we know him well by now – seems to have a need for misery and mystery. And this time he finds mystery at many levels.

This time it is a strange suicide in beautiful lakeside surroundings that starts the detective from Reykjavik pondering. A woman is found hanging from a beam in her summer cottage. It is a straightforward suicide – that’s not where the mystery is.

The mystery - perhaps fascination is a more appropriate description - starts when a friend of the woman gives Erlendur a tape of a séance attended the dead woman, where she tried to communicate with her mother and learn about the world beyond. As we know Erlendur has a deep need to know and understand, and now he feels a need to understand what it was that made this woman commit suicide.

Erlendur examines and reflects on the woman’s obsessions. As it turns out, the search for an answer to this case and a couple or other, seemingly unrelated cases, brings him far into the depths of his own personal history and the event that more than any other he needs to understand and make sense of - the loss of his young brother in a blizzard.

Hypothermia, excellently translated by Victoria Cribb, is beautifully written, moves at a pleasing speed, and is full of interesting observations. It is more than just another crime fiction book - it is also a book sentiments; love, loss, longing. It tells sad stories without happy endings, but in a remarkable and very insightful fashion. One of the very appealing aspects of this book is how the psyche of the detective - Erlendur - which has evolved and emerged gradually in the series, is also at the same time a constituent in both the mystery and it's "solution".

Hypothermia is, to my mind, the best novel so far in one of the best modern crime fiction series. A lovely book.


“This series places Indriðason at the center of the best of contemporary crime fiction. He is a master storyteller, and has a real gift for evoking complex humanity.”
— The Guardian

“Inspector Erlendur is one of the most compassionate detectives to come this way in a long time.”
— The New York Times

“One of those crime writers who rises above genre, combining suspense with moving insights into the human condition.”
— Sunday Times

Jar City, by Arnaldur Indridason

Jar City (Tainted Blood) is the first book in an award-winning  series of Icelandic crime novels by Arnaldur Indridason. The main character, Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson, is introduced in the very first chapter, investigating the scene of a murder.

Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson is a veteran detective with the Reykjavik police. He is a solid, hard working investigator that sometimes is guided by intuition, sometimes by his own obscure and peculiar interests. Jar City is a police procedural at the core, but presents a complex mix of mystery, family and collegial interactions, especially with Erlendur's partner Sigurdur Óli and female colleague Elínborg.

Jar City, by Arnaldur Indridason At the murder scene, Erlendur finds a photo of a graveyard headstone and  a cryptic note with the message “I am Him” written on it. Based on this message, and the condition of the crime scene, the police determine that the crime is a planned murder.

The clues in Jar City are few and far between. However, Erlendur is both creative and persistent. Erlendur’s quest takes him back nearly forty years as he investigates the past of the deceased, and the possibility that he was responsible for at least two brutal rapes. It turns out that the victim was a pretty nasty individual. Thus the likelihood of a revenge killing of some sort is high. In addition to the rapes, another incident which attracts Erlendur's attention is that a former friend of the dead man has been missing for over twenty-five years.

Erlendur and his crew learn many intriguing facts as they follow one lead after another in Jar City. They discover the puzzling death of a child with a rare genetic disease, and follow a genealogical trail whose tentacles appear to stretch throughout the country.

Increasingly the storage of organs for medical research purposes comes into focus. Erlendur locates a site where medically interesting organs that have been removed from people are stored in jars in rooms they call Jar City. I found this part of the investigation fascinating, and also liked Erlendur's police work and style of communication a lot.

Erlendur, the main character of Jar City and the series, is divorced, fifty, and smokes too much. He is not in the best of health. Also, he has a drug addicted daughter who barely speaks to him but continouosly causes problems for him. He is a wonderful, rich, and deep character.

Jar City is an excellent story and deals in a very interesting way with some very serious issues. Arnaldur Indridason is a great writer and successfully makes his characters believable with a considerable degree of skill. And the plot in Jar City moves along very fast. The author uses fast paced  dialogue as the primary means of moving the story forward. It is a great read! I enjoyed it a lot.

Silence of the Grave, by Arnaldur Indridason

In this second installment of Arnaldur Indridason’s Reykjavik Murder Mysteries, Erlendur Sveinsson, the somewhat jaded Reykjavik police Silence of the Grave, by Arnaldur Indridason detective - so full of regrets - is back. We met him previously in the first novel in the series, Jar City (a k a Tainted Blood). Now a skeleton has been found while excavating a new housing project. It has been determined to be decades old, and is assumed to be the victim of a murder. But who is it? How did he or she die?

So, once more the worn, worried, introspective detective Erlendur and colleagues must investigate Reykjavik’s hidden past. As with Jar City, Silence of the Grave too is alive with tension and atmosphere and feels disturbingly real. This excellent novel, for which Arnaldur Indridason was awarded the Glass Key award in 2003 and the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger Award in 2005, is an outstanding continuation of the Reykjavík Murder Mysteries.

This is a black novel – very noir fiction – and contains some tough and almost repulsive descriptions. We follow Erlendur into the abysses of drug abuse, needles and crack vials; a depressive journey into the dark spots of the otherwise bleak and barren setting of Iceland. We learn of a horrifying story of domestic abuse set during WWII. And a search for missing persons unearths almost-forgotten dark family secrets involving some of the city's most prominent citizens. Out of the silence of the grave pours secrets that perhaps had best remained hidden for eternity. In this book there is misery and more misery.

Inspector Erlendur Sveinnson’s trail is cold indeed. But he has personal reasons for a deep interest in missing persons, and does not give up. And as we learn more about Erlendur – his background, his family, the loss of his brother – we understand more of his fatalism and his dogged style.

This is an exceptional, deep, slowly moving, excellently and very intelligently plotted dark crime fiction novel. It is suspenseful and compelling, written in a manner that feels just right by Arnaldur Indridason. Silence of the Grave is a book you should not miss out on.

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