Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hypothermia, by Arnaldur Indridason

Harvill Secker/Random House
ISBN: 9781846552625

There's a subtle elegance to this particular story, considering it's a novel of crime fiction. There are no raging maniacs with axes hanging about, no serial killers, and no serious threats to the people of Reykjavik. In fact, there seems to be a lull in crime as this story opens, and Erlendur has some time to go back to some very cold cases. While pondering the ones that got away unanswered, he becomes involved with a new case, that of a woman who was found hanging in her vacation home. There are no signs to indicate anything other than suicide, but her friend Karen isn't so sure. Karen brings Erlendur a cassette tape of the dead woman's previous session with a medium and gets his attention. Working on his own, with no official police involvement, Erlendur works to find out why this woman took her own life. In a brief phone chat with Sigurdur Oli, when Erlendur notes that he wants to know "why she committed suicide,"  Erlendur explains why:

[Sigurdur Oli asks] " 'What's it to you?'
'Nothing,' Erlendur said. 'Absolutely nothing.'
'I thought you were only interested in missing-person cases.'
'Suicide is a missing-person case too,' Erlendur said and hung up on him."
Given Erlendur's background with the brother who was lost in a blinding snowstorm, his interest in the lost is no surprise.  And it's no surprise that he identifies with the ones left behind, for example, the grieving father who has checked in with Erlendur every year since his son vanished. For this man, time is running out because he's dying, and Erlendur wants him to go with answers. There's another missing persons case Erlendur goes back to as well -- that of a young woman who vanished one day, car and all. But it's the suicide that takes most of his time, as he gets into the head of the dead woman, just trying to figure out why.

Hypothermia is an excellent novel, and will give you pause to consider the nature of grieving and loss as you follow Erlendur throughout. Probably more than any of the previous novels in the series, place is itself a character, especially the cold and  lonely lakes of Iceland.  I loved this book and cannot recommend it highly enough.

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