Sunday, February 13, 2011

Hypothermia by Arnaldur Indridason

12. Hypothermia (published in Iceland as Hardskafi) - eighth in the Inspector Erlendur series
by Arnaldur Indridason
translated by Victoria Cribb
mystery, 2007
finished, 2/3/11

I've tried to keep my notations consistent but it seems like every book cover describes this series in a different way. I've decided to simply call it the 'Inspector Erlendur' series. And if you've been reading my book reports on the series, you will know that the first two have not been translated into English, so, although Jar City for example is the first one translated, it is the third in the series. That's why this book is listed as eighth, even though it is only the sixth in English. I saw at the Fantastic Fiction site that the next after Hypothermia is due this year! There is also a non-series book called Operation Napolean which I have on order.

When I pick up an Erlendur book by Arnaldur Indridason I truly do sink into it. I become almost mesmerized by the writing and the detail. As I have noted in previous book reports, the leitmotif is missing persons. There is so often a new case or an old case that involves someone who disappeared, often without a trace. And this theme is echoed in our detective's own past experience. This event which happened when he was a boy of ten has defined Erlendur's whole life. He is a quiet man who asks and expects little of this world. He has an ex-wife, a daughter and a son, and a new girlfriend. Aside from these people and his co-workers, his life is one of isolation. He likes the dark days of winter. His reading is limited to accounts of those stories which deal with the lost. His woman friend, Valgerdur tries to 'drag him out to the theatre' but pretty much the only outside activity he enjoys are musical concerts of 'choral music, solo performances and concerts by the Symphony Orchestra.' He knows nothing about popular culture. He simply doesn't do what most people do.
Erlendur didn't know much about hot tubs; he had never sat inside one, nor did he feel the slightest urge to do so.

'What about all your leave, don't you want to do anything with that?' Valgerdur asked.
'I should try and use it.'
'What have you got in mind?'
'I could try to lose myself for a few days.'
'Lose yourself?' Valgerdur asked. 'I was thinking maybe the Canary Islands or something like that.'
'Mm, I've no experience of that sort of thing.'
'What? You mean you've never left Iceland? Never been abroad?'
'Don't you want to go?'
'Not particularly.'
'The Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the Empire State Building, the Vatican, the pyramids ...?'
'I've sometimes felt a curiosity to see the cathedral in Cologne.'
'Why don't you go, then?'
'My interest doesn't amount to anything more than that.'
'What do you mean when you talk about losing yourself?'
'I want to go out east,' Erlendur said. 'Vanish for a few days. It's something I do from time to time. Mount Hardskafi ...'
'That's my Eiffel Tower.'
The Mount Hardskafi area is where Erlendur grew up, and where the tragedy in his life occurred.

In Hypothermia, a woman named María has committed suicide at her summer cottage on Lake Thingvallavatn.

It looks straightforward. It has been called a suicide, but Erlendur is uneasy and wants to know more.
Why die and leave a home like this? he wondered. Is there really nothing here to live for?
He knew such thoughts were futile. Experience showed that motive for suicide could be unpredictable and unrelated to a person's financial situation. The act itself frequently came as a total shock and could be committed by people of all ages: adolescents, the middle-aged and elderly, people who decided one day to end it all.
The reader of these mysteries has already learned that the suicide rate in Iceland is high and when someone says to him, 'I expect the police deal with a lot of cases?' Erlendur replies, 'Sadly, it's always happening.'

He essentially goes off on his own in this book. He has a feeling, a concern and he wants to pursue it. María has led a sorrowful life, beginning with the death of her father in this very lake when she was just a child, in fact the same age as Erlendur was when he experienced his own loss. Since that time she and her mother have been exceeding close, even to the point of her mother living in the same house with the daughter and her husband. The mother has recently died from a lingering disease, and this may have been the breaking point for poor María. We learn more and more about her life and the people in it as the book goes along in its deliberate way. At the same time he is studying these circumstances, he begins to take a second look at three old cases which involve the disappearances of young people nearly thirty years ago. The father of one of the young men makes visits to Erlendur on the occasion of his son's birthday. The mother has died, and the father is old and ill. Erlendur would like to be able to tell him what happened to his son all those years ago.

At the same time, his daughter Eva Lind wants her parents to re-establish some kind of relationship, so Erlendur must again look into his early life as a husband and father of two young children.

Yet another excellent installment in this wonderful series by Arnaldur Indridason.


  1. Hurray! Another Erlunder on the horizon. (Oct 12 in Canada)
    Dang, it's the last one written, even in Icelandic.

    And while I was checking Chapters, I looked up the next Kwei Quartey book, Children of the Street, which will be released July 12 in Canada. Have you read his first book, Wife of the Gods? Very good as well.

  2. Lovely review, Nan, and I LOVE the picture of the lake! thank you so much for posting it.

    I really like how Eva Lind and Erlendur's relationship is evolving over the books, don't you? And even the one with his son. I also like how Erlendur is coming to understand himself a little better too, how almost dying so long ago affected him too. One of my favourites in the series so far, and I've enjoyed them all very much, too.

  3. I need to search out the series order of these books, as I know I'll love them. Great review you know the order by any chance?

  4. Raidergirl, I echo your hooray! I've not heard of Kwei Quartey - will look it up. Thanks.

    Susan, thank you. I was thrilled to find the picture because the cottage on the lake is very close to it, and that plays an important part in the mystery! I agree about Erlendur and his kids - it was important to him to get that 'forgiveness' in this book. I love how he said that he and EL are alike. Great, great writing.

    Diane, if you want, you may type 'Indridason' in my search box and all the book reports will come up - in most recent to first order. I've read all that are available in translation.

  5. Thanks for posting this. I had seen Jar City at the library but passed it on by. Will have to go back and start with that one.

  6. Jodi, if you type his name into my search bar you can read my book reports on all his books so far in English translation. Jar City was quite different, I felt, from the others. I couldn't stop reading. The pace was fast. The rest of them have been slower, more contemplative. I love them all.


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