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by Arnaldur Indriđason, and Bernard Scudder, trans.
Harvill Secker, November 2008
352 pages
11.99 GBP
ISBN: 1846550653

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

If you've been following Arnaldur Indridason's Icelandic police procedural series, you'll know that his dysfunctional cop hero Erlendur is a morose bloke with a fixation on deaths in the freezing cold in the back of beyond.

The other characters aren't a bundle of laughs either. Among the police colleagues, Sigurdur Oli is a smartarse with a liking for all things American. Elinborg is really rather prissy. And they seem a very nave bunch, or maybe there's not much violent crime in Iceland. Elinborg is very dogmatic in her views about what might nor might not have happened to Elias, the young Thai boy who is murdered outside a block of flats. And you'll find yourself wondering why they haven't followed up various leads with a little more alacrity.

Elsewhere, Marion Briem, Erlendur's old mentor, is dying. And Erlendur's equally dysfunctional son and daughter wander in and out of his life periodically and start to ask questions about their dead uncle (the one who died in freezing cold in the back of beyond when he was a child )

ARCTIC CHILL is, surprise surprise, set amidst a bitterly cold Icelandic winter. Its storyline could come from the front page of a newspaper, as the police try to find out whether Elias's killing was racially motivated. Their investigation takes them into a school where there's an openly racist teacher and also reports of unrest between Icelandic pupils and the children of immigrants. And to complicate matters, a suspected paedophile has been seen in the area.

The book isn't one of Indridasen's best in what's been a thoroughly reliable series. It's worth reading, certainly, but the plot has a tendency to plod along in low gear with Erlendur seemingly getting sidetracked by other parts of his life. I'm not sure how much the translation is to blame, as the dialogue is rather leaden in parts it's a shared job between the late Bernard Scudder and Victoria Cribb.

But for atmosphere, a highly topical plot and some well-drawn supporting characters (ironically they seem to fare better than the main cast) such as Elias's mother Sunee, ARCTIC CHILL scores better.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, March 2009

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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