25 February 2010


Last December, at the Carleton Book Store sale I bought a copy of Arnaldur's mystery, Arctic Chill. I finally got to reading it recently.

But, before I go on about Arctic Chill, I'd like to reiterate something I mentioned when I wrote about Jar City and then forgot when I wrote about The Draining Lake and Voices.

In Iceland's insular world, people are known by their given names alone. They have patronyms or matronyms, but people don't use them. The population of the country (317,000) is about 80% of the population of Minneapolis. The country is smaller and snowier than Kentucky. Nearly everyone lives in a city or town. None of the towns or cities, save Reykjavik, has more than 30,000 residents. People are known by their first names. Ask Icelanders about Indriðason, and they might not know whom you are speaking about, even though Arnaldur is a best selling author.

So, in spite of the publication of Arnaldur's patronym on the cover of the English version of his book, I'll refer to him as he's known back home. If I remember.

What about Arctic Chill? It's not up to the standard that Arnaldur set with Voices. Inspector Erlendur (who also gets a patronym for the American dust jacket) is haunted by the childhood death of his brother when the two of them were caught in a blizzard. His post-traumatic stress shapes nearly every aspect of his personality and most of his actions. I kept expecting Erlendur's past to play a major role in the investigation of the murder of a 10-year-old boy in this story. It didn't.

The death of Erlendur's mentor and the ambiguous relationship between them is more important in this book. I'm not sure why, even after re-reading the last chapter.

It was a difficult book to get into. The beginning is full of details, ideas, and actions of the three main cops investigating a schoolyard killing. There are so many details, I found it hard to keep track of people and events. The detectives seem incredibly thorough and Arnaldur tells us about nearly every detail. I even started the book over after reading the first third.

The dust jacket says the book's "a thriller." It's not a thriller. Unlike the backstories and parallel plots in Voices, there's little here besides the investigation.

Erlendur's children show up a couple times, but there's no real development of the relationships.

And here's part of the problem: the US edition of Arctic Chill wasn't published until 2009, but it was written in 2005. The Draining Lake was written in 2004. Voices was written in 2003, so I'm reading these out of sequence, which might make a difference. As I hinted before, I might decide to go back and read these in chronological order before I read Hypothermia, written in 2007.

In any case, Arctic Chill was a better book than I expected after reading the first third of it twice. It wasn't as good as Voices or The Draining Lake. I might well read them all again and someday, I'll read the newest one.

Have you read Arctic Chill or other of Arnaldur's books? What did you think? Write, and tell this little bit of the world about your reaction.

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