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Bibliophile reviews Vetrarborgin (crime) by Arnaldur Indriðason

Title in translation: Arctic Chill
Series detective: Erlendur Sveinsson and co.
No. in series: 7
Year of publication: 2005
Type of mystery: Murder, police procedural
Type of investigator: Police
Setting & time: Reykjavík, 2005
Number of murders: 1
Some themes: Immigrants, racism, child abuse, missing persons

Story: On a frosty January morning a young boy, half Thai, half Icelandic, is found stabbed to death outside the building where he lived. Most people assume that the crime was racially motivated, but Erlendur is not so sure. He and his team patiently sift through evidence and question suspects, and other cases intrude. When the murder weapon is finally found it leads the investigators down a disturbing path.

Review: When I reviewed the last book I mentioned that the reiterations of the police officers' personal lives and problems was getting boring. Fortunately it is not so in this story. Arnaldur only uses very brief summaries to ensure new readers know what's going on, but does not repeat the whole story like he has in the previous couple of books, which is good. The murder case is disturbing and utterly realistic, and the motive (or non-motive) is quite Icelandic. There are two very good red herrings included in the plot, and the ending is completely unexpected.

The Icelandic winter (at its worst) is described in such detail that it almost becomes a character in the story, and the weather descriptions serve to make the story dark and gloomy.

Rating: A very good addition to the series. 4 + stars.


kimbofo said…
I wish they'd hurry up with the English translations! Your review has me itching to read it. Have read the first two and much enjoyed them.
Lee said…
Oh, I must read this one. What a pleasure it's been to discover Indridason. Your description of the winter as almost a character in the novel - that alone has me dying to read it.

On another note: is there an edition of the Icelandic sagas in English that you'd particularly recommend?
Bibliophile said…
I don't really know much about the Sagas in English - the only ones I have looked at were attempts to preserve the archaic language and style of the originals, and believe me, while the style may be quite cool and readable in old Icelandic, in English it's just difficult to read and rather funny.
However, I have heard good things about the "The Sagas of Icelanders" from Penguin, a paperback edition with a selection of Sagas from a recent luxury edition "The Complete Sagas of Icelanders" which is apparently the first coordinated translation of all the sagas. If you like the first, you can always invest in the second.

Here's a link to a list of more Saga translations:
Anonymous said…
Have recently come across several readers on various websites who are reading one book a week for a year and seem quite proud of the feat. What's the big deal? I read 2-3 books a week, week in week out forever, and I'm 63. I definitely have my guilty pleasures (Michael Connelly, Ian Rankin--4-5 hour reads in one sitting) but most of the books on these lists are just barely the other side of junk/pop fiction. I am always hunting for new or old-and-missed-by-me authors, new voices, new ways of seeing, writings that make me swoon with pure joy. O where are you, literary reader of my heart.
Bibliophile said…
For some, 52 books in a year is a big feat, sprung out of a longing to read more. For others, like myself, it's a way of breaking out of a rut and reading something new.

I read more than 200 books last year. The 52 is merely a convenient number for a challenge. You know, 52 weeks in the year = 52 books a week you wouldn't have read otherwise. And people are allowed to have different tastes. Todays popular junk might be tomorrow's classics (think Dickens, Dumas, Austen).
Anonymous said…
Yes, you are right. A book a week is hard for a lot of people--full time jobs, responsibilities, kids, maybe don't read so fast. I misspoke. Venting my frustration--I spend so many hours each week just researching books and authors. Live in a lovely small city but the library leaves a lot to be desired. Barely any int'l contemp lit in translation but a dozen copies of each and every best seller. And books the librarians think will be popular for book groups. Almost makes me want to move back to NYC. Thanks for your response.
Lori said…
Thank you for the blogmark; hope you will come visit my blog soon. I like your blog; this particular book sounds really good. Regarding your "crazy" post: I too have stayed up way too late in reading a book that I have read before; if it's a good book it's easy to get caught up it in again.

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