The Washington Post
Arctic Chill (Inspector Erlendur Series #5)by Arnaldur Indridason
On an icy January day, the Reykjavik police are called to a block of flats where a body has been found in the garden: a young, dark-skinned boy, frozen to the ground in a pool of his own blood. The discovery of a stab wound in his stomach extinguishes any hope that this was a tragic accident. Erlendur and his team embark on their investigation with little to go
On an icy January day, the Reykjavik police are called to a block of flats where a body has been found in the garden: a young, dark-skinned boy, frozen to the ground in a pool of his own blood. The discovery of a stab wound in his stomach extinguishes any hope that this was a tragic accident. Erlendur and his team embark on their investigation with little to go on but the news that the boy’s Thai half-brother is missing. Is he implicated, or simply afraid for his own life? The investigation soon unearths tensions simmering beneath the surface of Iceland’s outwardly liberal, multicultural society. The boy’s murder forces Erlendur to confront a tragedy in his own past. Soon, facts are emerging from the snow-filled darkness that are more chilling even than the Arctic night.
The Washington Post
In Indridason's stellar fifth Reykjavik thriller (after TheDraining Lake), police detective Erlendur Sveinsson and his team investigate the murder of a dark-skinned Asian boy, found frozen in his own blood one midwinter day outside a rundown apartment block. The author imbues the self-doubting Erlendur with enormous depth, as an insecure father unable to show his love for his errant son and daughter as well as a troubled professional who's made pain his constant companion. Indridason also lays bare the plight of Thai women brought to Iceland, married and soon divorced by Icelanders, left to raise their children alone in a culture, a climate and a language they don't understand. On top of this national tragedy is the universal problem of bored, unsupervised youth, raised with no respect for authority and awash in fast food, rock music and violent computer games. Indridason has produced a stunning indictment of contemporary society. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“A remarkable series.” The New York Times Book Review
“This Icelandic tale is delivered with exquisite sensitivity, in a moody translation.” Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times
“A solid police procedural . . . well-constructed and certainly unflinching in its with of the human condition.” Patrick Anderson, The Washington Post
“Arctic Chill is most reminiscent of Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander series.” Jessica Moyer, Booklist
“Delving into the prejudices and inequalities of Icelandic society, this novel has great clarity, emotional depth, and resonance.” Katie Owen, The Daily Telegraph (UK)
Read an Excerpt
They were able to guess his age, but had more trouble determining which part of the world he came from.
They thought he was about ten years old. He was wearing a grey anorak, unzipped, with a hood, and military-style camouflage trousers. His school bag was on his back. One of his boots had come off and there was a hole in his sock. One toe poked through. The boy was not wearing gloves or a hat. His black hair was already frozen to the ice. He lay on his stomach with one cheek turned up towards them, and they saw his broken eyes staring along the frozen earth. The puddle of blood underneath him had started to freeze.
Elínborg knelt down beside the body.
‘Oh my God,’ she groaned. ‘What on earth is happening?’
She held out her hand, as though she wanted to touch the body. The boy looked as if he had lain down to take a rest. She had difficulty controlling herself, did not want to believe what she saw.
‘Don’t move him,’ Erlendur said calmly. He was standing by the body with Sigurdur Óli.
‘He must have been cold,’ Elínborg muttered, withdrawing her hand and slowly getting to her feet.
It was the middle of January. The winter had been reasonable until the New Year, when the temperature dropped sharply. The ground was now covered in a solid coating of ice and the north wind howled and sang around the blocks of flats. Rippling sheets of snow swept along the ground. They collected into little drifts here and there and fine powder snow swirled away from them. Straight from the Arctic, the wind bit their faces and penetrated their clothes, cutting to the bone. Erlendur thrust his hands deep into the pockets of his winter coat and shuddered. The sky was heavy with cloud and it was dark, although it had only just turned four o’clock.
‘Why do they make military trousers like that for children?’ he asked.
The three of them stood hunched over the boy’s body. The blue flashing lights of the police cars bounced off the surrounding houses and blocks of flats. A few passers-by had gathered by the cars. The first reporters had arrived. Forensics were photographing the scene, their flashes vying with the blue lights. They sketched the layout of the area where the boy was lying and the immediate surroundings. The forensic investigation was in its initial stages.
‘Those trousers are in fashion,’ Elínborg said.
‘Do you think there’s something wrong with that?’ Sigurdur Óli asked. ‘Kids wearing trousers like those?’
‘I don’t know,’ Erlendur said. ‘Yes, I find it odd,’ he added after a pause.
He looked up at the block of flats. People were outside on the balconies watching, in spite of the cold. Others stayed indoors and made do with the view through the window. But most were still at work and their windows were dark. The officers would have to go to all the apartments and talk to the residents. The witness who had found the boy said that he lived there. Perhaps he had been alone and had fallen off the balcony, in which case this could be recorded as a nonsensical accident. Erlendur preferred that theory to the idea of the boy having been murdered. He could not pursue that thought through to the end.
He scrutinised the surroundings. The garden behind the flats did not seem well kept. In the middle was a patch of gravel that served as a little playground. There were two swings, one broken so that the seat hung down to ground level and spun around in the wind; a battered slide that had originally been painted red but was now patchy and rusty, and a simple see-saw with two little seats made from bits of wood, one end frozen solid to the ground and the other standing up in the air like the barrel of a large gun.
‘We need to find his boot,’ Sigurdur Óli said.
They all looked at the sock with the hole in it.
‘This can’t be happening,’ Elínborg sighed.
Detectives were searching for footprints in the garden but darkness was falling and they couldn’t see much on the frozen ground. The garden was covered with a coat of slippery ice, occasional clusters of grass poking through it. The district medical officer had confirmed the death and was standing where he thought he would be sheltered from the gale, trying to light a cigarette. He was uncertain about the time of death. Somewhere in the past hour, he thought. He had explained that the forensic pathologist would calculate the exact time of death by correlating the degrees of frost with the body temperature. On first impression the doctor could not identify a cause of death. Possibly a fall, he said, looking up at the gloomy block.
The body had not been disturbed. The pathologist was on his way. If possible he preferred to visit the crime scene and examine the surroundings with the police. Erlendur was concerned at the ever-growing crowd gathering at the corner of the block, who could see the body lit up by the flashing cameras. Cars cruised slowly past, their passengers absorbing the scene. A small floodlight was being erected to enable a closer examination of the site. Erlendur told a policeman to cordon off the area.
From the garden, none of the doors appeared to open out onto a balcony from which the boy might have fallen. The windows were all shut. This was a large block of flats by Icelandic standards, six storeys high with four stairwells. It was in a poor state of repair. The iron railings round the balconies were rusty. The paint was faded and in some places it had flaked off the concrete. Two sitting-room windows with a single large crack in each were visible from where Erlendur stood. No one had bothered to replace them.
‘Do you suppose it’s racially motivated?’ Sigurdur Óli said, looking down at the boy’s body.
‘I don’t think we should jump to conclusions,’ Erlendur said.
‘Could he have been climbing up the wall?’ Elínborg asked as she, too, looked up at the apartment block.
‘Kids do the unlikeliest things,’ Sigurdur Óli remarked.
‘We need to establish whether he might have been climbing up between the balconies,’ Erlendur said.
‘Where do you think he’s from?’ Sigurdur Óli wondered.
‘He looks Asian to me,’ Elínborg said.
‘Could be Thai, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Chinese,’ Sigurdur Óli reeled off.
‘Shouldn’t we say he’s an Icelander until we find out otherwise?’ Erlendur said.
They stood in silence in the cold, watching the drifting snow pile up around the boy. Erlendur looked at the curious bystanders at the corner where the police cars were parked. Then he took off his coat and draped it over the body.
‘Is it safe doing that?’ Elínborg asked with a glance in the direction of the forensics team. According to procedure they were not even supposed to stand over the body until forensics had granted permission.
‘I don’t know,’ Erlendur said.
‘Not very professional,’ Sigurdur Óli said.
‘Has no one reported the boy missing?’ Erlendur asked, ignoring his remark. ‘No enquiries about a lost boy of this age?’
‘I checked that on the way here,’ Elínborg said. ‘The police haven’t been notified of any.’
Erlendur glanced down at his coat. He was cold.
‘Where’s the person who found him?’
‘We’ve got him in one of the stairwells,’ Sigurdur Óli said. ‘He waited for us. Called from his mobile. Every kid carries a mobile phone these days. He said he’d taken a shortcut through the garden on his way home from school and stumbled across the body.’
‘I’ll talk to him,’ Erlendur said. ‘You check whether they can find the boy’s tracks through the garden. If he was bleeding he might have left a trail. Maybe he didn’t fall.’
‘Shouldn’t forensics handle that?’ Sigurdur Óli mumbled to deaf ears.
‘He doesn’t appear to have been attacked here in the garden,’ Elínborg said.
‘And for God’s sake, try to find his boot,’ Erlendur said as he walked off.
‘The boy who found him . . .’ Sigurdur Óli began.
‘Yes,’ Erlendur said, turning round.
‘He’s also col . . .’ Sigurdur Óli hesitated.
‘An immigrant kid,’ Sigurdur Óli said.
The boy sat on a step in one of the stairwells of the block of flats, a policewoman sat with him. He had his sports kit wrapped up in a yellow plastic bag and eyed Erlendur with suspicion. They had not wanted to make him sit in a police car. That could have led people to conclude that he was implicated in the boy’s death, so someone had suggested that he wait in the stairwell instead.
The corridor was dirty. An unhygienic odour pervaded the air, mingling with cigarette smoke and cooking smells from the flats. The floor was covered in worn linoleum and the graffiti on the wall seemed illegible to Erlendur. The boy’s parents were still at work. They had been notified. He was dark-skinned with straight jet-black hair that was still damp after his shower, and big white teeth. He was dressed in an anorak and jeans, and holding a woollen hat in his hands.
‘It’s awfully cold,’ Erlendur said, rubbing his hands.
The boy was silent.
Erlendur sat down beside him. The boy said that his name was Stefán and he was thirteen. He lived in the next block of flats up from this one and had done so for as long as he could remember. His mother was from the Philippines, he said.
‘You must have been shocked when you found him,’ Erlendur said after a lengthy silence.
‘And you recognised him? You knew him?’
Stefán had told the police the boy’s name and where he lived. It was in this block but on another staircase and the police were trying to locate his parents. All Stefán knew about the boy was that his mother made chocolate and he had one brother. He said he had not known him particularly well, nor his brother. They had only quite recently moved to the area.
‘He was called Elli,’ the boy said. ‘His name was Elías.’
‘Was he dead when you found him?’
‘Yes, I think so. I shook him but nothing happened.’
‘And you phoned us?’ Erlendur said, feeling he ought to try to cheer the lad up. ‘That was a good thing to do. Absolutely the right thing. What did you mean when you said his mother makes chocolate?’
‘She works in a chocolate factory.’
‘Do you know what could have happened to Elli?’
‘Do you know any of his friends?’
‘What did you do after you shook him?’
‘Nothing,’ the boy said. ‘I just called the cops.’
‘You know the cops’ number?’
‘Yes. I come home from school on my own and Mum likes to keep an eye on me. She . . .’
‘She always tells me to phone the police immediately if . . .’
‘If anything happens.’
‘What do you think happened to Elli?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Were you born in Iceland?’
‘Elli too, do you know?’
The boy had been staring down at the linoleum on the stairwell floor all the time, but now he looked Erlendur in the face.
‘Yes,’ he answered.
The front door swung open and Elínborg was blown indoors. A thin sheet of glass separated the stairwell from the entrance and Erlendur saw that she was carrying his overcoat. With a smile he told the boy he might talk to him again later, then stood up and walked over to Elínborg.
‘You know you must only interrogate children in the presence of a parent or guardian or child welfare officer and all that,’ she snapped as she handed him his coat.
‘I wasn’t interrogating him,’ Erlendur said. ‘Just asking about things in general.’ He looked at his overcoat. ‘Has the body been removed?’
‘It’s on its way to the morgue. He didn’t fall. They found a trail.’
‘The boy entered the garden from the west side,’ Elínborg said. ‘There’s a path there. It’s supposed to be lit but one of the residents told us there’s only one lamp-post and the bulbs are always getting smashed. He got into the garden by climbing over the fence. We found blood on it. He lost his boot there, probably when he was clambering over.’
Elínborg took a deep breath.
‘Someone stabbed him,’ she said. ‘He probably died from a knife wound to the stomach. There was a pool of blood underneath him that froze more or less directly it formed.’
Elínborg fell silent.
‘He was probably going home,’ she said eventually.
‘Can we trace where he was stabbed?’
‘We’re working on it.’
‘Have his parents been contacted?’
‘His mother’s on the way. Her name’s Sunee. She’s Thai. We haven’t told her what’s happened yet. That’ll be terrible.’
‘You go and be with her,’ Erlendur said. ‘What about the father?’
‘I don’t know. There are three names on the entryphone. One looked something like Niran.’
‘I understand he has a brother,’ Erlendur said.
He opened the door for her and they went out into the howling north wind. Elínborg waited for the mother. She would go to the morgue with her. A policeman accompanied Stefán home; they would take a statement from him there. Erlendur went back into the garden. He put on his overcoat. The grass was dark where the boy had been lying.
I am felled to the ground.
A snatch of old verse entered Erlendur’s mind as he stood, silent and deep in thought, looking down at the patch where the boy had been lying. He took a last glance up the length of the gloomy block of flats, then carefully picked his way over the icy ground towards the playground, where he grasped the cold steel of the slide with one hand. He felt the piercing cold crawl up his arm.
I am felled to the ground,
frozen and cannot be freed . . .
From the Hardcover edition.
Meet the Author
Arnaldur Indriadason worked for many years as a journalist and critic before he began writing novels. Outside Iceland, he is best known for his crime novels featuring Erlendur and Sigurdur Óli, which are consistent bestsellers across Europe. The series has won numerous awards, including the Nordic Glass Key (for Tainted Blood and for Silence of the Grave) and the CWA Gold Dagger (for Silence of the Grave). His most recent novel is The Draining Lake.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I enjoyed this book not only for the story but for the insight of Icelandic culture. The main detective is a little dark and brooding man. This is not the typical macho detective, but a person with scars and fears like everyone else. This series will be similar to "Bones" the TV series in that the crimes are in the past so you get a little history of life in iceland as the solve the crime
Outside a slummy Reykjavik apartment, the corpse of an Asian-Icelandic boy is found lying in his frozen blood. Police detective Erlendur Sveinsson leads the investigation into the homicide. He finds no motives for killing the half Thai child so he explores racism as the only possibility in spite of a tolerant society in which native males marry Thai women, divorce them, and abandon them and their offspring to live in the slums. The victim is El'as whose mom Sunee worked in a chocolate factory but has recently vanished; she was estranged from her carpenter husband Idinn for bringing her other son Niran with her. Erlanger has personal issues starting with the shock of his former boss Marion's slow death that reminds him of his own mortality and his obsession to reconcile with his estrange adult children. The detective continues his inquiry into a missing woman who probably committed suicide, but he seeks closure in the case. The latest Icelandic police procedural is a deep look at society struggling with the problems Thai women face in Iceland. The story line also deeply digs into a father's struggles with his two offspring who have issues that make him feel like a failure. As their father he wants to shower them with love; an emotion he cannot show to anyone even the woman he desires as love denotes weakness. This is another winner as the case is solid but supports the profound glimpse into society and relationships. Harriet Klausner
Entirely good, consistent with previous stories, find out more about main characters, Iceland continues to be a cold and dark place. Looking forward to the next.
not the best in the series -- too much lecturing. But a cut above still many others out there -- like anything by Patterson . Wildest scene is the crazy gun battle that takes place inside an old lady's house simply because detective ducks in there.
The book is your "basic" murder mystery. The characters are interesting but not that grand I suppose you could say. However, I gave the book three stars because although it's a story you've probably read or seen before it's still an enticing and gripping story. Once I started I couldn't wait to continue, I hated having to put the book down. The setting of the story (Iceland) is what I really believe kept me reading. While reading the descriptive details of the story I felt as if I was really there in Iceland. The author truly describes every detail, not only in regards to the country but the murder itself as well as the events leading up to it and what came after. Not a single question left unanswered. This is my first book that I've read by this author and although very much out of order in the series, I can't wait to go buy the very first book written in the series! As I said, I have read the book out of order however I would of never have known had I not searched the author on Google. You never get the feeling that you've missed anything. I would most certainly suggest this to my friends to read, and well, to anyone else too.
If he hasn't told you already, I've been shot at a number amount of times and gotten shot 3 times. I've been chassed by so called humans, and wolves that think they are better than everyone else. I've gotten into numerous amounts of fights. *she filed her nails on a rock* maybe this place is good for you Darknight, but I like the city. As I said I have more fun playing with the other dogs and wolves. *darknight snorted* Yeah, just the males. All you do is fight the females. *moonlight laughed* And your right about that, only because all the females do is flirt and *mockingly hides her face behind her tail and giggle girlishly* this and all that other flirting poop. And you know I'm not like that unless well yea stopping there. But really I loved the city.
Interesting setting that is not part of this story. Could have happened next door. Slow to develop, takes a long time to go anywhere, and a disapointment to the end.
*eyes the wolf carefully but still nods* as you wish *bolts straight up into the air and glides away from the wolves location*
*moonlight continued to sleep, and Darknight nodded to Arctic*
She stalks a snowy owl in silence. Leaping up high can be challenging for her, but this time she gets the owl down. She plucks off a white feather and sticks it into the snow,marking the place she had buried it.
Frostpelt bristled. Only she seemed to care about hunting! All the other warriors just stuffed their faces all day while she hunted!