Tuesday, December 23, 2014

TWO-CENT TUESDAY :: Arnaldur Indridason

A brief, two-cent opinion on Arnaldur Indridason's Inspector Erlendur series:

Last year I decided to give audiobooks a shot, thinking they would be a great way to read books I might not get to otherwise. I had always wanted to try Indridason's Inspector Erlendur procedural series and was sold when I saw the audio versions are narrated by George Guidall, universally adored by the audiobook community. Turns out it was a great selection and I've just finished the tenth and most recent book in the series, Strange Shores.

The books are set in Reykjavik, Iceland, and center around police Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson and his fellow detectives, Sigurdur Oli and Elinborg. Erlendur (under Iceland's traditional patronymic naming system, Icelanders formally address others by their first names) is a 50-ish, long-divorced curmudgeon. Although generally dour, Erlendur has also made me laugh out loud on occasion with his dry sense of humor. Much of Erlendur's gloomy persona stems from the death of his younger brother when Erlendur was twelve, a death for which he holds himself responsible and rarely, if ever, speaks about.

Avoiding the topic with his own children isn't difficult, as Erlendur has been estranged from his son and daughter since they were small after he left their mother quite unceremoniously. Both kids have struggled with drugs, particularly daughter Eva Lind, who appears in quite a few of the series entries. Eva and Erlendur are taking tentative steps towards forging some type of relationship, despite residual bitterness and Eva's ongoing addiction issues.

Each book has a central case along with a secondary mystery, sometimes official, sometimes personal to one of the detectives, and at times the background investigation ultimately dovetails or has a connection to the main case. The formula works, and allows the reader to get to know all three detectives more fully. The dialogue is particularly stellar, especially between the main characters, and the harsh landscape of Iceland is always impactful but never over-described (something easy to do with such a unique location).

The lead-up to Strange Shores, a defining entry in the series, was really well done. Indridason sent Erlendur off to the Eastern Fjords of his childhood on leave for the 8th and 9th books in the series. In Outrage, Elinborg's case is the focus of the book and in Black Skies Sigurdur Oli takes the front seat. Erlendur's absence is noted, but it's not until Strange Shores that the reader's suspicion as to what Erlendur is really up to is confirmed.

Finally facing the death of his brother and trying to find answers, Erlendur returns to his hometown and begins poking around into cases resembling that of his brother. In so doing, he discovers the death of a local woman decades previously may not be the storm-related accident it was presumed to be. Erlendur investigates that old, cold (no pun intended) case, interviewing locals and dredging up secret past relationships, all while trying to find some answers about his brother's death.

Overall, I've really fallen in love with this series and highly recommend it if you enjoy lean police procedurals with good dialogue, multi-dimensional characters, and a strong sense of place. If you have any inclination to try audiobooks, George Guidall is as fantastic as billed.  The eleventh book in the series, Reykjavik Nights, comes out in April 2015, but it's never too late to get started.

1 comment:

jen_forbus said...

I'm going to try leaving a comment here again. I'm so thrilled to have another Guidall convert!! Love his work. And may have to check out this series now...on audio. :-)

About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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