Hypothermia, By Arnaldur Indridason

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The Independent Culture

The Nordic crime novel is now almost a genre in its own right. Arnaldur Indridason's latest Icelandic saga embodies many of the defining features: the dark atmosphere, the brooding, empty spaces, the long journeys and long-buried crimes, and the dogged, taciturn detective – topped off with ice and snow.

A woman is found dead, hanging from a beam in her holiday cottage. It looks like a straightforward suicide case, but Detective Erlendur comes upon a tape of a séance the woman attended shortly before she died. He starts to dig. She went to a medium known as Magdalena, but Magdalena doesn't seem to exist. The lineaments of other crimes and tragedies gradually appear. In the course of the investigation, Erlendur re-opens two missing-person cases. His own sorrows and regrets struggle towards the light.

This is a humane, unsentimental study of grief and guilt, which is both moving and unsettling. It's also a softly gripping narrative, without ever resorting to fight scenes, car chases or torture.