Skip to main content

Review: Arnaldur Indriðason: Skuggasund (Potential title translation: Shadow Channel (source: Wikipedia))

This is a "crimes of the past revisited" story, something Arnaldur has done before in several of his other books (e.g. Silence of the Grave, The Draining Lake and Strange Shores). Told in chapters alternating between 1944 and the modern day, it tells the story of how the murder of an old man sets a retired police detective on the trail of another, unsolved, murder that happened during WW2 in Reykjavík. This is not a detective Erlendur story and does not feature either of his two closest collaborators on the police force but instead introduces a new character, a recently retired detective named Konráð.

I don't know if the English title given for this book in the Wikipedia entry on Arnaldur and elsewhere on the web (except that literature.is gets it (almost) right), is the one that will be used for the eventual translation, but to me it looks suspiciously like a Google Translate blooper. Skuggasund actually means "Shadow Alley" and is the name of a street in Reykjavík, behind the National Theatre. Near the beginning of the story an Icelandic girl and her American serviceman boyfriend stumble upon a body at the back of the theatre and the man sees someone standing on the corner of the eponymous street. I will post the eventual  English title as soon as I find out what it is.

This is a plot-driven story for the most part. We get to know some background information about the characters, but almost all of it is pertinent to the story in some way, like the descriptions of what they look like, which are important for reader visualisation, and little details that allow us to see them as fully developed characters, but the personal lives and problems of the detectives don't intrude into the story like they sometimes do in the Erlendur books. This is a good thing, in my opinion, because I have always thought that Arnaldur wasn't very good at making his detectives interesting. The only protagonist in any of his books (of those I've read) that has a (semi-)interesting private life is Erlendur, and that's because the others are just so normal, and normal is very hard to make interesting.

The two stories unfold bit by bit, with the historical and modern detectives discovering the same information at different times and puzzling out what happened using different methods. As in all of the books by Arnaldur that I have read, the story really makes one think about justice and how criminals often manage to escape it even when they're found out, while innocents suffer and potentially useful lives are cut off, because Arnaldur's victims are rarely stereotypical "deserved to die" types.

SPOILER WARNING



 If I have a complaint about the plotting, it is that the evildoers in both cases are introduced late in the narrative and play so very little part in the actual story that the historical one isn't even a suspect until towards the end of the modern story and the modern one goes from witness to suspect with almost unseemly haste. But that's just because I enjoy watching the dance between the detective(s) and suspect(s) and seeing the guilty uncovered little by little. 

It was, altogether, a good, solid detective story. 3+ stars.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Book 40: The Martian by Andy Weir, audiobook read by Wil Wheaton

Note : This will be a general scattershot discussion about my thoughts on the book and the movie, and not a cohesive review. When movies are based on books I am interested in reading but haven't yet read, I generally wait to read the book until I have seen the movie, but when a movie is made based on a book I have already read, I try to abstain from rereading the book until I have seen the movie. The reason is simple: I am one of those people who can be reduced to near-incoherent rage when a movie severely alters the perfectly good story line of a beloved book, changes the ending beyond recognition or adds unnecessarily to the story ( The Hobbit , anyone?) without any apparent reason. I don't mind omissions of unnecessary parts so much (I did not, for example, become enraged to find Tom Bombadil missing from The Lord of the Rings ), because one expects that - movies based on books would be TV-series long if they tried to include everything, so the material must be pared down

List love: 10 recommended stories with cross-dressing characters

This trope is almost as old as literature, what with Achilles, Hercules and Athena all cross-dressing in the Greek myths, Thor and Odin disguising themselves as women in the Norse myths, and Arjuna doing the same in the Mahabaratha. In modern times it is most common in romance novels, especially historicals in which a heroine often spends part of the book disguised as a boy, the hero sometimes falling for her while thinking she is a boy. Occasionally a hero will cross-dress, using a female disguise to avoid recognition or to gain access to someplace where he would never be able to go as a man. However, the trope isn’t just found in romances, as may be seen in the list below, in which I recommend stories with a variety of cross-dressing characters. Unfortunately I was only able to dredge up from the depths of my memory two book-length stories I had read in which men cross-dress, so this is mostly a list of women dressed as men. Ghost Riders by Sharyn McCrumb. One of the interwove

Icelandic folk-tale: The Devil Takes a Wife

Stories of people who have made a deal with and then beaten the devil exist all over Christendom and even in literature. Here is a typical one: O nce upon a time there were a mother and daughter who lived together. They were rich and the daughter was considered a great catch and had many suitors, but she accepted no-one and it was the opinion of many that she intended to stay celebrate and serve God, being a very devout  woman. The devil didn’t like this at all and took on the form of a young man and proposed to the girl, intending to seduce her over to his side little by little. He insinuated himself into her good graces and charmed her so thoroughly that she accepted his suit and they were betrothed and eventually married. But when the time came for him to enter the marriage bed the girl was so pure and innocent that he couldn’t go near her. He excused himself by saying that he couldn’t sleep and needed a bath in order to go to sleep. A bath was prepared for him and in he went and