Friday, November 12, 2010

Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indridason

64. Arctic Chill - seventh in the Inspector Erlendur series by Arnaldur Indridason
translated by Bernard Scudder and Victoria Cribb
mystery, 2005
finished, 10/16/10

When I begin an Arnaldur Indridason book, I sink into it as one would a big upholstered chair. From the very first sentence, it is a reading experience like no other.

I am fascinated by Detective Erlendur's preoccupation with missing persons in Iceland. Every single book features this to a greater or lesser degree. He describes disappearances as 'a distinctly Icelandic crime.'
His theory was that Icelanders were indifferent about people who went missing. In the great majority of cases they believed there were 'natural' explanations, in a country with a fairly high suicide rate. Erlendur went further and linked the nonchalance about disappearances to a certain popular understanding, extending back for centuries, about conditions in Iceland, the hard climate in which people died of exposure and vanished as if the earth swallowed them up. Nobody was better acquainted than Erlendur with stories of people who had frozen to death in bad weather. His theory was that crimes were easy to commit under the cover of this indifference.
Each book teaches me something new about the country. Arctic Chill focuses on how the Icelanders are dealing with a new population from Thailand. I read here that in 2005 when this book was written, there were about 500 Thais in Iceland.

A young boy is found stabbed to death on a frigid January afternoon when it is dark at 4 pm.

Reykjavik at mid-day - Photo by Aaron Sylvan

He is the son of an Icelandic father and Thai mother. The police haven't had much experience with racially motivated crimes, and wonder if this may be one. Then the mother's other son disappears.
'Could it be that Sunee [the mother] no longer feels safe among us?' Erlendur said. 'Here in Iceland. Could that explain why she's hidden her son? We can't begin to understand what it's really like for immigrants in this country. We can't begin to understand what it's like for someone from the other side of the globe to move over here, settle, start a family and try to integrate into Icelandic society. ... Racism may not be an everyday occurrence here but we know that not everyone's happy with the way society is going.'
This is a heart-wrenching situation for all concerned, and is further complicated for Erlendur because he is getting occasional phone calls from a woman who says, 'Oh, God, I can't do it.' Is she a woman whose marriage has broken up, who has also disappeared? And why does she call him?

As always, I don't want to give away too much about the story. What I will say is that this writer is one of the best I've ever read. The detail, the quiet exploration of people and society, the slow way the reader gets to know not only Erlendur but his family and co-workers is different from any other books. Arnaldur Indridason really stands alone for me. There's no one like him. If you haven't begun to read his work, I really do encourage you to do so. He is a wonderful writer and his books are excellent.


  1. OMG...that header shot is breathtaking.

    Nan, is there a list of titles and order for this mystery series? sounds really good.

  2. I have been needing a good read. I will check these out.

  3. Diane, you can actually click on 'book reports' in the tab under the banner pic; then click 2010; then scroll down to 'alphabetically by author.' When you get to his name you'll see the ones I've written about. Except for Hypothermia which comes after Arctic Chill, they are all there. The first ones haven't been translated. Don't ask me why. Thanks about the photo. Milkweed this morning.

    Lisa, I so love his work.

  4. I've read a few of his books now, and will look at this one next.

    Like you, I'm fascinated by learning about Iceland. And the movie made of Jar City just put the icing on the cake!

    But, the meals eaten were a bit disconcerting - especially for a vegetarian - the scene of Erlunder eating a sheep's head was gross - I can't describe the horror I felt. You'll have to see it for yourself - Netflix has it

  5. Janice, sadly, because I don't have high enough speed internet, I can't watch the instant Jar City from Netflix. I have it in my queue but it is in the 'saved' section. I'll close my eyes for that scene!

  6. Nan,
    You are so gifted in your reviews!
    Seeing the photo reminds me of our recent stop-over in mystical and yet so barren.
    Great photo header. Aren't milkweeds so beautiful!
    Thank you for another great review!

  7. Joanne, what a very nice thing to say. I struggle to get the words right when I really love a book. I hope I can get to Iceland someday. I'm fascinated by it.

  8. Nan,

    Thanks so much for continuing to blog! I really enjoy your posts, and love the Indridason books too after reading your wonderful review of one of them I got started reading them.

    This review was particularly heartfelt and enjoyable to read.

    A fan in Georgia

  9. One of the best you've read? Well, then I need to read one of these for sure. I should pick a very cold week to read these too!!!

  10. I was just stopping by to say what great reviews you write. If I wasn't already a huge Indridason fan and hadn't already read all the series, I'd run out and get one. Because I have read them, I appreciate what a great job you do in your reviews. My parents had a stopover in Iceland this fall and they would love to go back (even though they didn't even leave the airport!)

  11. This sounds especially good. Sort of in the tone of Henning Mankell. I know NOTHING about Iceland, this would be a way to kill two birds with one stone. I understand though, that the people are VERY melancholy. I'll have to see if my library has them.

  12. I'm assuming that the one book I have by AI on my tbr pile, Tainted Blood, is in this same series. I've heard good things about the author from several people so am looking forward to reading it. I too have always fancied going to Iceland and I love the picture you've used of Reykjafvík, Nan.

  13. Glad you liked the book! Enjoy your weekend!

  14. Also I love your header photo! Milkweed is so beautiful when it opens and you have captured it to perfection!! I really enjoy your photos Nan!

  15. Thank you very much 'a fan in Georgia.' Your words mean a lot to me.

    Staci, some of the books are in the spring or summer when the sun is out a long, long time. Erlendur hates it and draws his curtains. :<)

    Raidergirl, I can't tell you how your words make me feel. Thank you so very much. Oh, Iceland. I would so love to go. I am a cold weather person so would like to be there in the winter.

    Yvette, there is a bit of the feeling of Mankell, but really the two series are quite different. Wallander goes all over the world, and Erlendur stays in Iceland. I am endlessly fascinated by Iceland. I think in one of my 'book reports' I mentioned the depression that is quite prevalent. The characters are such a part of their home, their landscape. I just love these books.

    Cath, Tainted Blood is another name for Jar City. I wrote about it here:

    This first book to be translated is a bit different from the ones that follow. I zoomed through JC, and went much slower through the next ones. Haven't really figured out why. :<)

    Sherri, the milkweed is so lovely right now. Again, pure luck and that cute little camera are responsible!

  16. Ordered this book from Amazon yesterday. Eager to have it in my hands as it will be my intro to this author.

    Really love the milkweed photo!

  17. Interesting, I have never heard of the author, must check him out. I don't think I have ever read a book about Iceland, nor one set there, to come!
    The header shots just keep getting better and better, I must check out your camera.

  18. Jill, I'm stunned that you ordered it based on my book report! Even though it is several books into the series, I don't think it will matter. If you want to read about the other four I've read, you may click on 'book reports' under the banner photo, and then click on 2010, and scroll down 'alphabetically by author' to Arnaldur Indridason's name, and then click on the books. He is such a great writer, I think. And thanks about the header pic. That milkweed is just so pretty. Sort of a flower in November!

    Carole, if you want to read more about his other books, you can do what I just wrote to Jill above. I knew nothing about Iceland before reading him! Thank you about the picture. Luck, my dear. I think you'll like the camera. Easy peasy. :<)

  19. That's fascinating about the small Thai population on Iceland. Immigration patterns can be surprising sometimes - people from warm climates moving to cold places. I know Maine has a Somali community that has risen up in the town of Lewiston.

    Love the picture of Reykjavik. It really conveys the remoteness and cold of the city. I've never been there, but it seems an intriguing place to go.

  20. Christy, that's very interesting about Lewiston. I wonder how they happened to choose Maine. In the case in the Indridason book, Icelandic men marry Thai women and bring them to Iceland. Sometimes the women don't stay, preferring Denmark. There is a lot about the wonderful Thai culture in the book. I loved that picture, too. I was happy to find a winter afternoon photo on the internet. I'd so love to visit.


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