Maria hardly registered what was happening during the funeral. She sat numbly in the front pew, holding Baldvin’s hand, barely conscious of her surroundings or the service. The vicar’s address the presence of the mourners and the singing of the little church choir all blurred into a single refrain of grief…She remembered the autumn colours in the cemetery and the frozen puddles on the gravel path leading to the grave, the crackling sound as the thin film of ice broke under the feet of the pall-bearers. She remembered the chilly breeze and making the sign of the cross over her mother’s coffin…Maria’s mind did not return to the lake until all was quiet again and she was left alone with her thoughts, late that night. It did not occur to her until then, when all was over and she was thinking back over that grueling day, that no one from her father’s family had turned up to the funeral. (pgs. 1-2)
Hypothermia is the latest mystery by Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason. I read about this book on Kimbo’s Reading Matters Blog. Normally I would try to start at the beginning of a mystery series but after reading Kimbo’s review and seeing my library had just gotten Hypothermia in, I went right out and picked it up.
After reading The Tricking of Freya I have been intrigued by Iceland with its landscape and history. Landscape seems to play such an important role in Icelandic life and it has a subtle presence throughout Hypothermia. Some of the action takes place at Thingvellir National Park and a simple google search will show you just how spectacularly beautiful the setting really is.
Inspector Erlendur, a Reykjavik police detective becomes peripherally involved in the investigation of a suicide. After notifying the husband of the death of his wife, Erlendur meets with wife’s friend who expresses doubt about the suicide. The detective is interested in cases involving a disappeared person, (He considers suicide a disappearance) so he starts looking into things trying to understand the victim’s state of mind. At the same time he finds himself remembering two cases involving a missing person, two cases he has never been able to let go of. Add the mix the long ago disappearance of his brother when they were boys and a daughter that wants him to confront the long ago failure of his marriage and you have a complicated mixture of threads to follow.
This all must seem like a lot for an author and his fictional detective to juggle but it seems to happen so effortlessly. The book has a subdued, steady pace which reflects the intrinsic nature of Erlendur. He quietly follows his instincts, acting unofficially throughout the book, looking at the various leads until he can make sense of it all. While I was able to guess certain aspects of the plot, I found myself racing through the pages. In fact, I read this book in one sitting because I wanted to see how the juggler made it all work in the end. This is not a book with a lot of action and yet I found it very satisfying. The author has a terse spare writing style where every word counts. The multiple layers add depth and texture to a fairly simple plot. All in all a mystery writer to consider adding to your list of favorites.