Here’s an author — from Iceland, no less — who has sold more than five million copies of his thrillers and won several prizes along the way. So, sucker that I am for mysteries written in or about exotic times and places, I made a beeline for Hypothermia. After all, the crime novel maven at the New York Times had recommended it.
Unfortunately, this novel — literally subtitled “A Thriller,” like most of Arnaldur Indridason‘s previous books — isn’t especially thrilling. I persisted to the end more out of mild curiosity and stubborn refusal to quit reading than because I found the book suspenseful.
Hypothermia (Detective Erlendur #8) by Arnaldur Indridason ★★★☆☆
Not that Hypothermia lacked the earmarks of professional writing. The plot was both complex and credible. The protagonist, a Reykjavik police detective named Erlendur, is reasonably believable, too. He’s driven by deep-seated guilt, a father of two less than admirable adult children and ex-husband of a . . . well, the only word is shrew . . . and he seems little rooted in the police department even after decades of work there. However, Indridason’s style is so spare that the picture I’d hoped to get of Reykjavik and its surroundings barely qualified as impressionistic. The only thing that came through clearly in the pages of this flawed novel was that the people of Iceland all appear to be profoundly unhappy. But, hey, this is Scandinavia, right?
Hypothermia begins with the apparent but surprising suicide of a history professor named Maria. In some mysterious fashion, her death appears to be linked to the disappearance of two young people many years earlier. In the end, Erlendur uncovers the link and figures out how Maria died, solving three cases simultaneously. Q.E.D.
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