Indridason: Hypothermia, summer reading


These are the lazy days of summer. These are hammock days, days for lying on the Toronto couch (if you have one) at the beach and losing yourself in summer reading. If you are in Gimli, Manitoba, go to Tergesen’s bookstore and buy a murder mystery by Indridason. He’s Iceland’s best murder mystery writer. Not just Iceland’s, he’s one of the best. His novels are perfect, I’m at the beach, it’s hot out, I’ve got a cold drink, I want something to read, solutions. If you aren’t lucky enough to be in Gimli for the Gimli Film Festival this week, you can find Indidason’s novels in most bookstores. The quality paperback versions are out so you won’t mind getting sand among the pages.

I’m a great fan of Indridason’s writing and his main character, Erlendur. Here’s what I had to say of Hypothermia in an earlier review.

Hypothermia by Arnaldur Indridason kept me up last night. I haven’t stayed up reading until one in the morning for many years. On the ferry home from Salt Spring Island, I kept reading, and when I got home, I started a fire in the woodstove and continued to read. Except for making a cup of coffee, I did nothing else.

I have a friend who says she is in love with Erlendur, the detective in this murder mystery. He is the main character in a number of Indridason’s novels. I understand. Erlendur is one of those unforgettable characters, as un-Jamesbondish as its possible to be, flawed, frustrating, obsessed. He was a terrible husband and not much of a father. His own life has been completely messed up by the loss of his brother in a blizzard in rural Iceland.

Hypothermia isn’t a police procedure novel. The story begins with the suicide of a woman called Maria. Her death seems quite straight forward. There’s nothing to indicate that anything is amiss. Maria’s mother has died some time before. Maria has been depressed, unhappy, has her own obsession, a desire to know if there is life after death. Her husband is a respectable doctor.

Something, though, doesn’t seem quite right and when one of Maria’s friends comes to Erlendur to tell him that Maria couldn’t possibly have committed suicide, he begins to ask questions. There’s no indication of a crime and official police investigation. However, Erlendur is like a dog with bone. He can’t quit chewing on it.

The brilliance of Idridason’s writing lies in his ability to juggle plot elements. Along with Erlendur’s inquiries into an expanding circle of people connected to Maria, he is still bothered by the disappearance of a young woman and a young man. There seems to be no connection between them. The case of the young man is kept alive for Erlendur because the parents and after the mother’s death, the father’s coming to the office once a year and, gradually, every few years, to ask if there has been anything found of them.

Idridason is highly skilled in that he plants tiny details in the story that at later stages have major implications. In the case of the miss young woman and man, he has a character describe the young woman’s car as being a bit of a wreck, the passenger door being stuck, the window handles not working. It seems one of those background details of no significance. By the time the novel is over, these details turn out to be critical to events.

My friend who says she loves Erlendur also says that she only reads a set amount of pages each day because she doesn’t want to give up reading about him, his travails with his children and his ex-wife, his grief over his lost brother, his determination to follow obscure possibilities until they fit together like a jigsaw puzzle to reveal a whole picture.

Put it under your Christmas tree. Even non-fans of murder mysteries will be intrigued by this complex personality.