Out of the blizzard
Copyright: Eidur Ragnarsson
Bookhounders will know that I'm a fan of the Icelandic writer, Arnaldur Indridason's Detective Erlendur mysteries, having reviewed Hypothermia and Outrage previously. The mysteries have principally centred around Detective Erlendur, who's your usual rather gloomy Scandi-detective and his investigations into violent Icelandic crimes, which have roots in the distant past. This fits rather nicely with Erlendur's own character, as he has himself been psychologically scarred by the disappearance of his young brother when he was a child.
Strange shores brings the older Erlendur canon to a close (although Arnaldur Indridason is in the process of writing some younger Erlendur books). As the series has progressed I've struggled with the format. What at first was hugely enjoyable with history spreading long ghoulish fingers into the present day, has become increasingly formulaic. In the last Erlendur novel though, this works brilliantly. The brooding menace of a troubled history turns this novel from your standard Scandinavian noir detective story to a poignant, moving and at times horrific piece of stunning literary fiction.
Erlendur is back in his home country in the remote east of Iceland. The desolate landscape is facing rapid change as a hydro-electric dam is in the process of being built. Erlendur is gripped by the story of a woman, who went missing during a freak storm in the 1940's. In many ways the story of her disappearance mirrors his own experience during which his little brother vanished. Erlendur decides to investigate, and uncovers a gruesome tale of love, jealousy and revenge. While ostensibly investigating this unrelated case, Erlendur is also forced to confront his own repressed feelings, and eventually finds his own form of closure, with the knowledge that "the disappeared" will forever haunt those that they have left behind.
It's a haunting read, and it's impossible not to be moved by it. Less a detective story, more a paean to loss and love. I found this incredibly poignant, and without doubt, one of Arnaldur Indridason's best novels. It had all of the excitement and novelty of the original format; this story is told however with real feeling and humanity. A beautiful, if chilling read, which provides a fitting conclusion to the canon. Great writing.
In fact the only thing about this book that annoyed me was the publisher's blurb on the front "Murder in Reykjavik" - Murder, yes, Reykjavik, most definitely no.