Harvill Secker, £12.99, 281pp. £11.69 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
Outrage, By Arnaldur Indridason, trans. Anna Yates
Friday 01 July 2011
That rugged Icelandic glacier, Detective Erlendur, is away from Reykjavik and a disturbing case is handled by his female sidekick, Elinborg. The female perspective creates a different kind of novel from those built around Arnaldur Indridason's withdrawn and isolated loner. Here we have a detective worrying about her family while handling with sensitivity the victims of a serial rapist who drugged his victims with Rohypnol.
Has rough justice finally caught up with him? Elinborg's search for the murderer who dressed Runolfur in a woman's T-shirt before cutting his throat is interrupted by interaction with her children, especially attempts to communicate with her difficult teenage son. Should she read his blog? Would that be snooping? She does so and discovers that her son has a very different view of their family life.
The rapist had that most modern of occupations as a computer engineer who visits homes for installations or repairs, giving him access without difficulty. The search for his killer involves tracing his victims, most too shamed or horrified to speak. This is especially true in the small communities outside the city, where ancient family hostilities hold sway. Even among more sophisticated communities, information is difficult to come by and the process by which Elinborg follows up a few clues is fraught and complex.
The determination of a father to protect his daughter, that daughter's love for her father: such powerful emotions could have generated the hatred evident behind the murder. Elinborg's tact and tenacity finally break through and bring about a resolution in which her family life plays a part.
Indridason is good on the multiple problems besetting the central character. In one respect there is a decided change, for whereas Erlendur could barely microwave a slab of frozen mutton, this detective loves food and enjoys cooking. Nevertheless, there is a loving account, as though Indridason does not really enjoy this brave new world of tandooris and red wine, of traditional Icelandic fare - such as haddock boiled until the kitchen windows are running with steam. Elinborg is actually writing a cookery book and finds it "an outlet for her creativity".
I felt a bit disappointed that this most chilly of Nordic writers has decided to go touchy-feely to an almost parodic extent. Just because Elinborg is a woman doesn't mean she has to be multi-tasking and empathising. I missed the laconic impenetrability of Erlendur, though in this story we occasionally glimpse him in the distance, giving hope that he will soon be back - grumping his way through the floes and geysers.
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