Harvill Secker, 2011
originally published as Myrká, 2008
translated by Anna Yates
Number seven in this most excellent series created by Arnaldur Indridason following Hypothermia, Outrage provides the opportunity for one of the normally supplemental characters, Elinborg, to step into a leading role. While I enjoyed the story, and the long wait for this installment definitely paid off, at the same time, I didn't feel it had the edge to it of the previous novels in this series. This is not to imply that the subject matter is something light or that the characters in the book deal with it in a less-than-serious attitude, or even that the core mystery is not downright chilling, because it is. But more of this later.
Erlendur, as faithful followers of this series know, has gone back to the Eastern Fjords where he grew up to pursue some personal matters. In his absence, Elinborg catches the case of a man found with his throat cut in his apartment in the fashionable area of Thingholt in Reykjavik. The dead man was not only brutally murdered, but the police found a large amount of the date-rape drug Rohypnol in his jacket pocket, and some of the same drug in his own mouth and throat. The only other clue is a woman's shawl with a marked smell, which Elinborg recognizes as masala, a mix of Indian spices. He is identified as Runólfur, an employee of a local telecom company with no previous criminal record, who comes from a village that is so small that authorities are closing the one school there. However, readers know from the first chapter that picking up women in bars with a supply of Rohypnol in his pocket is nothing new for him. As Elinborg, with the help of Sigurdur Oli, proceeds with her investigation, she realizes that solving this case will be difficult at best, hampered by both memory and the lack of it.
While Elinborg is not a new character, this is the first time in this series that she's really taken on the lead role. She works incredibly hard to juggle life between work and home, and to find a place somewhere in the middle for herself without the constant nagging guilt she feels about her role as a parent and wife. Ties to family, both younger and older generation are very important (and also work as an ongoing theme in this novel). Offset against Erlendur, who tends to live in a rut and is filled with a great deal of angst largely because of his attraction to the old ways (an ongoing theme in all of the previous novels) , and because he doesn't understand the modern society in which his own children exist, Elinborg is much more up to date in her thinking, and the author spends a great deal of time on Elinborg's more current attitudes, especially, but not limited to, on work, family, and food. For example, while sitting in her car doing some surveillance work, thinking about a past conversation with Erlendur,
"From where she sat Elinborg could see the dry dock of the old harbour, soon to make way for new residential developments on the former dockside. History would be erased at a stroke. She thought of Erlendur, who clung to the old ways. She did not always agree with him -- after all, progress demanded space. "
Yet she doesn't get her son's need to blog about the family, leaving their lives out there for anyone in cyberspace to read.
She's definitely an interesting character, and Indridason does a fine job of presenting her as more of a two-dimensional character than we've ever seen before. But (and this is a totally personal observation here) sometimes the glimpses into Elinborg's personal life are a bit too many -- for example, a nearly one-page description on tandoori preparation where a few sentences about what constitutes the smell found on the shawl might have sufficed -- and for me detracted a bit from the otherwise compelling mysteries at the heart of this novel: who killed Runólfur, and why? What secrets are going to be uncovered within the scope of Elinborg's investigation?
Overall, Outrage is a very good addition to the series, and I'm sure that Elinborg will make a repeat appearance as lead investigator in the future. After all, there's already a mystery to solve, hinted at by Indridason toward the end when Elinborg receives a mysterious phone call regarding an abandoned rental car in Eskifjördur. I'll be buying that book as well. Recommended especially for followers of the series, or for people who are looking for a good series of crime fiction, especially from Scandinavia.
crime fiction from Iceland