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Reykjavik Murder Mystery series by Arnaldur Indridason


I started reading this series of books last fall – liked them but put them aside after the first few. I picked up again this spring with Voices, the third in the series, and carried on with the next couple, The Draining Lake and Arctic Chill.

Detective Erlendur is a man who lives alone, divorced for many years, but he has recently been in touch with his daughter Eva Lind, a confused young woman with a drug addiction. Voices takes place in the days just before Christmas – when everyone should be busy preparing for time spent with family and friends and enjoying only good things and fun. But, into this comes murder. Santa is murdered in the basement room where he lives beneath a busy hotel. Murdered in his bed – with his drawers at his feet. Santa is identified as Gudlauger, a long time doorman at the hotel. As the investigation progresses it becomes increasingly clear that Gudlauger had a past he’d concealed from everyone at the hotel. He seems to have had no real friends though everyone knew he was the doorman who dressed up as Santa each Christmas. Even his family has not seen him for years and they are not about to reveal to Erlendur anything about the past. Of course, it all comes out eventually and the case is solved.

As with any series, there is not only the investigation of a particular case, but with each book we come to know more about the main character, and in this case we learn much more about Erlendur and his daughter.

I went right on to read The Draining Lake. This time it is summer and the humour is more evident, albeit a little dark. A body is discovered in a shallow lake, anchored by a Cold War era Soviet radio transmitter. The investigation leads to a group of students from Iceland who studied in East Germany, some of whom became disillusioned with the Socialist movement and others who are still involved in espionage of one sort or another.

Arctic Chill takes place in another Reykjavik winter, and there is a more brutal death. This is a case that, even more than usual, has Erlendur thinking about his own childhood and the death of his younger brother. We also see more of Erlanger’s adult children, and the personal lives of his colleagues lives are revealed more than in the past.

Reading about Iceland is quite fascinating – a country that from a distance seems to be a place of beauty – but these novels paint it as a country where there is a high rate of alcoholism, missing persons cases, and suicide. Many readers speak of Nordic novels as being dark - glum - but for me it is no more so than reading about Eeyore – and, it is fiction after all!

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