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Hypothermia (Inspector Erlendur Series #6)

Hypothermia (Inspector Erlendur Series #6)

4.1 43
by Arnaldur Indridason

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"Indridason fills the void that remains after you've read Stieg Larsson's novels."- USA Today on Hypothermia

Inspector Erlunder has spent his entire career struggling to evade the ghosts of his past. But ghosts are visiting him, both in the form of a séance attended by a dead woman and also in the reemerging puzzle of two young people who went


"Indridason fills the void that remains after you've read Stieg Larsson's novels."- USA Today on Hypothermia

Inspector Erlunder has spent his entire career struggling to evade the ghosts of his past. But ghosts are visiting him, both in the form of a séance attended by a dead woman and also in the reemerging puzzle of two young people who went missing 30 years ago. And there's the ghost of the detective's disastrous marriage, which, despite the pleas of his drug-addled daughter, he is unwilling to confront. In addition, he's still obsessed with the disappearance of his brother, who vanished without a trace when they were boys.

He can only run from his ghosts for so long, and, when they finally catch up with him, Erlunder is forced to face the heart shattering truth of his past.

One of the most haunting crime novels readers are likely to encounter this year or any other, this mystery set in Iceland belongs on the shelf of every serious reader of suspense fiction. Hypothermia will chill you to the bone.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
At the start of Indridason's powerful sixth Reykjavík thriller (after Arctic Chill), the body of María, a woman ravaged by guilt, is found hanging in her holiday cottage, an apparent suicide. As Erlendur, a police detective who works largely alone because he prizes solitude above all else, doggedly interviews those close to María--her husband, her relatives, her friends--in an unofficial effort to understand what might have driven her to take her own life, he unravels an ingenious and sinister plot. Complicating his investigation are the ghosts from his personal and professional past: his failed marriage and his shaky relationships with the son and daughter who grew up without him, as well as unsolved missing-persons cases he still feels morally compelled to pursue. Most scalding of all is his memory of the blizzard that he barely survived as a boy but in which his younger brother perished, the tragic event that shaped Erlendur's later life and lends mythic resonance to Indridason's remarkable novels. (Sept.)
From the Publisher

“A remarkable series.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Indridason fills the void that remains after you're read Stieg Larsson's novels.” —USA Today

“A superb series . . . expertly handled.” —Chicago Sun-Times

“Indridason shifts smoothly from the personal to the procedural. Everything's in balance, cliches are nonexistent, the plot and pacing are irresistible, the resolution just right. . . . What's Icelandic for 'we have ourselves a winner'?” —Newsday

“Every one of these writers is good [Hakan Nesser, Kjell Eriksson, Ake Edwardson, Helene Tursten, Karin Fossum], but in my book, Arnaldur Indridason is even better.” —Joe Queenan, Los Angeles Times

“Indridason combines psychological acuteness with great stylistic economy and a pleasing pace.” —The Independent (London)

“Haunting and compelling, this novel has an intense personal quality that keeps you reading.” —The Oklahoman

Kirkus Reviews

A suicide reminds a veteran inspector of previous sad cases—and of ghosts from his own past.

María, a historian, is found hanged in her country cottage by her childhood friend Karen, with whom she'd planned a getaway weekend. María's husband Baldvin, a doctor, is equally distraught by her death. Though his wife showed no signs of depression, flashbacks from her perspective tell a different story. Not only was she melancholy since the death of her beloved mother Leonóra a couple of years ago, she had an intense interest in the afterlife and was consulting with psychics. While not questioning the coroner's conclusion of suicide, grim Inspector Erlendur (Arctic Chill,2009, etc.) is bothered by several details of the case, not least Baldvin's decision to have María cremated. For many years, an elderly man named Tryggvi has periodically visited Erlendur for news of his son, a university student who vanished one evening. In light of María's death, Erlendur feels compelled to reexamine this case and a handful of others more carefully. At length, he discovers some surprising and significant details. At the prompting of his daughter Eva Lind, clean after years of drug abuse, he agrees to a meeting with his ex-wife and offers a deeply felt account of the childhood death of his younger brother, an incident that has indelibly shadowed his life for decades.

Though series fans may miss sidekicks Elinborg and Sigurdur Oli, relegated to minor roles, they'll welcome another haunting mystery from the Gold Dagger Award winner, whose work transcends genre.

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St. Martin's Press
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Inspector Erlendur Series , #6
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By Arnaldur Indridason, Victoria Cribb

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2007 Arnaldur Indridason
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-4016-0


The emergency line received a call from a mobile phone shortly after midnight. An agitated female voice cried:

'She's ... María's killed herself ... I ... it's horrible ... horrible!'

'What's your name, please?'

'Ka – Karen.'

'Where are you calling from?' the emergency operator asked.

'I'm at ... it's ... her holiday cottage ...'

'Where? Where is it?'

'... At Lake Thingvallavatn. At ... at her holiday cottage. Please hurry ... I ... I'll be here ...'

Karen thought she would never find the cottage. It had been a long time, nearly four years, since her last visit. María had given her detailed directions just to be on the safe side, but they had more or less gone in one ear and out the other because Karen had assumed she would remember the way.

It was past eight in the evening and pitch dark by the time she left Reykjavík. She drove over Mosfellsheidi moor where there was little traffic, just the odd pair of headlights passing by on their way to town. Only one other car was travelling east and she hung on its red rear lights, grateful for the company. She didn't like driving alone in the dark and would have set off earlier if she hadn't been held up. She worked in the public-relations department of a large bank and it had seemed as if the meetings and phone calls would never let up.

Karen was aware of the mountain Grímannsfell to her right, although she couldn't see it, and Skálafell to her left. Next she drove past the turning to Vindáshlíd where she had once spent a two-week summer holiday as a child. She followed the red tail lights at a comfortable speed until they drove down through the Kerlingarhraun lava field, and there their ways parted. The red lights accelerated and disappeared into the darkness. She wondered if they were heading for the pass at Uxahryggir and north over the Kaldidalur mountain road. She had often taken that route herself. It was a beautiful drive down the Lundarreykjadalur valley to Borgarfjördur fjord. The memory of a lovely summer's day once spent at Lake Sandkluftavatn came back to her.

Karen herself turned right and drove on into the blackness of the Thingvellir national park. She had difficulty identifying the landmarks in the gloom. Should she have turned off sooner? Was this the right turning down to the lake? Or was it the next? Had she come too far?

Twice she went wrong and had to turn round. It was a Thursday evening and most of the cottages were empty. She had brought along a supply of food and reading material, and María had told her that they had recently installed a television in the cottage. But Karen's main intention was to try to sleep, to get some rest. The bank was like a madhouse after the recent abortive takeover. She had reached the point where she could no longer make any sense of the infighting between the different factions among the major shareholders. Press releases were issued at two-hourly intervals and, to make matters worse, it transpired that a severance payment of a hundred million krónur had been promised to one of the bank's partners, someone whom a particular faction wanted to fire. The board had succeeded in stirring up public outrage, and it was Karen's job to smooth things over. It had been like this for weeks now and she was at the end of her tether by the time it occurred to her to escape from town. María had often offered to lend her the cottage for a few days, so Karen decided to give her a call. 'Of course,' María had said at once.

Karen made her way slowly along a primitive track through low-growing scrub until her headlights lit up the cottage down by the water. María had given her a key and told her where they kept a spare. It was sometimes useful to have an extra key hidden at the cottage.

She was looking forward to waking up tomorrow morning amidst the autumn colours of Thingvellir. For as long as she could remember people had flocked to the national park in the autumn, since few places in the country could boast such a brilliant display of colour as here by the lake where the rust-red and orange shades of the dying leaves extended as far as the eye could see.

She started to ferry her luggage from the car to the sun deck beside the door. Then, putting the key in the lock, she opened the door and groped for the light switch. The light came on in the hallway leading to the kitchen and she took her little suitcase inside and placed it in the master bedroom. To her surprise, the bed was unmade. That was not like María. A towel was lying on the floor of the lavatory. When she turned on the light in the kitchen she became aware of a strange presence. Although she was not afraid of the dark, she felt a sudden sensation of physical unease. The living room was in darkness. By daylight there was a superb view of the lake from its windows.

Karen turned on the living-room light.

Four solid beams extended across the ceiling, and from one of them a body was hanging, its back turned to her.

Shock sent her crashing back against the wall and her head slammed into the wood panelling. Everything went black. The body hung from the beam by a thin blue cord, mirrored in the dark living-room window. She didn't know how long it was before she dared to inch closer. The tranquil surroundings of the lake had in an instant been converted into the setting for a horror story that she would never forget. Every detail was etched on her memory. The kitchen stool, out of place in the minimalist living room, lying on its side under the body; the blue of the rope; the reflection in the window; the darkness of Thingvellir; the motionless human body suspended from the beam.

Karen approached cautiously and caught sight of the swollen blue face. Her ghastly suspicion proved correct. It was her friend María.


An extraordinarily short space of time seemed to pass between Karen's phone call and the arrival on the scene of the paramedics, accompanied by a doctor and some police officers from the neighbouring town of Selfoss. The Selfoss CID, who had been assigned the case, knew only that the woman who had committed suicide was from Reykjavík, lived in the suburb of Grafarvogur and was married but childless.

The cottage was full of people conversing in low voices. They stood around like awkward strangers.

'Was it you who called?' a young detective asked.

The woman who had found the body had been pointed out to him where she sat in the kitchen, staring dejectedly at the floor.

'Yes. My name's Karen.'

'We can get you a trauma counsellor if you —'

'No, I think ... it's all right.'

'Did you know her well?'

'I've known María ever since we were children. She lent me the cottage. I was going to spend the weekend here.'

'You didn't see her car behind the cottage?' the detective asked.

'No. I didn't think there was anyone here. Then I noticed that the bed hadn't been made and when I went into the living room ...I've never seen anything like it before. Oh God, poor María! Poor thing!'

'When did you last speak to her?'

'Only a few days ago. When she lent me the cottage.'

'Did she say that she intended to be here herself?'

'No. She didn't mention it. She said of course she'd lend me the place for a few days. No problem.'

'And was she ... on good form?'

'Yes, I thought so. She seemed her usual self when I went round to pick up the key.'

'She'd have known you were coming here?'

'Yes. What do you mean?'

'She knew that you'd find her,' the detective said.

He had pulled up a stool when he'd started talking to Karen. She grabbed his arm, staring at him.

'Do you mean ...?'

'Maybe you were meant to find her,' the detective said. 'Not that I know anything about it.'

'Why would she have wanted that?'

'It's only a guess.'

'But it's true; she knew I'd be here over the weekend. She knew I was coming here. When ... when did she do it?'

'We haven't been given an exact time of death yet but the doctor thinks it can't have been much later than yesterday evening. So probably about twenty-four hours ago.'

Karen hid her face in her hands.

'God, it's so ... it's so unreal. I should never have asked to borrow the cottage. Have you spoken to her husband?'

'The police are on their way to see him now. They live in Grafarvogur, don't they?'

'Yes. How could she do this? How could anyone do a thing like this?'

'From sheer despair,' the detective said, beckoning the doctor over. 'Mental torment. You weren't aware of anything like that in her case?'

'Maria lost her mother two years ago – to cancer,' Karen said. 'It was a terrible blow to her.'

'I see,' the detective said.

Karen's lips trembled. The detective asked if the doctor could do anything to help her. She shook her head, saying she was all right but would like to go home if that was allowed. It was not a problem. They would talk to her later if necessary.

The detective escorted her out to the drive in front of the cottage and opened the car door for her.

'Will you be all right?' he asked.

'Yes, I think so,' Karen answered. 'Thank you.'

The detective watched her turn the car and drive away. By the time he went back into the cottage they had cut down the body and laid it on the floor. He knelt down beside it. The dead woman was dressed in a white T-shirt and blue jeans but was wearing no socks. She was slim and had a thin face and short dark hair. He could see no signs of a struggle, either on her body or in the house; only the overturned kitchen stool on which the woman must have stood to tie the noose round the beam. The blue rope could have been bought from any DIY shop. It had cut deep into her slender neck.

'Lack of oxygen,' announced the district medical officer, who had been talking to the paramedics. 'Unfortunately for her, her neck's not broken. That would have been quicker. She suffocated when the noose tightened round her neck. It would have taken some time. They're asking when they can take her away.'

'How long would it have taken?' the detective asked.

'Two minutes – maybe less – before she lost consciousness.'

The detective stood up and looked around the cottage. From what he could see it was a very ordinary Icelandic holiday home with its leather three-piece suite, handsome dining table and newly fitted kitchen. The walls of the living room were lined with books. He walked over to the shelving unit and noticed the brown leather spines of five volumes of Jón Árnason's Collected Folk Tales. Ghost stories, he thought to himself. Other shelves contained French literature titles and Icelandic novels, interspersed with china or ceramic ornaments and framed photos, including three of the same woman at different ages as far as he could tell. The walls were hung with graphic prints, a small oil painting and watercolours.

The detective went through to what he assumed was the master bedroom. There was a body-shaped indentation in the bedclothes, on one side. There was a pile of books on the bedside table, with a volume of poetry by Davíd Stefánsson from Fagriskógur on top. Beside them was a small bottle of perfume.

His tour of the cottage was not motivated by mere curiosity. He was searching for signs of a struggle, any clue that the woman had not gone voluntarily into the kitchen, fetched the stool, positioned it under the beam, climbed on to it and put the rope round her own neck. All he found were the signs of a terribly quiet – almost polite – death.

He was interrupted by a colleague from the Selfoss CID.

'Found anything?' the man asked.

'Nothing. It's suicide. Pure and simple. There's no indication of anything else. She must have killed herself.'

'It certainly looks that way.'

'Hadn't I better cut down the rope before we leave? She's got a husband, hasn't she?'

'Yes, please take it down. He'll have to come here at some point.'

The detective picked up the noose from the floor and turned it over in his fingers. It was not a very professional effort: the knot had been tied inexpertly and the rope did not slide smoothly through the loop. It occurred to him that he could have done a better job himself, but perhaps it was unreasonable to expect a superior noose from an ordinary housewife from Grafarvogur. It was not as if she would have made a special study of the method and prepared for her suicide in detail. It had probably been the result of a moment of madness rather than a carefully premeditated act.

He opened the door on to the decking. It was only two steps down and a couple more yards to the edge of the lake. There had been a freeze over the past few days and a thin film of ice covered the water nearest the shore. In some places it had frozen to the rocks, like a paper-thin sheet of glass beneath which the water swirled.


Erlendur drove up to an unassuming detached house in the suburb of Grafarvogur. It stood on its own at the end of a cul-de-sac in a street of handsome villas. Most of them were identical, painted white, blue or red, with a garage and two cars per house. The street was well lit and clean, the gardens were neatly tended, the lawns mown, and the trees and bushes tidily pruned. There were box-trimmed hedges wherever you looked. The house in question appeared older than the other buildings in the street; it was built in a different style, with no bay windows or conservatory and with no pretentious columns flanking the front door. It was a white building with a flat roof and a large picture window in the sitting room that faced on to Kollafjördur fjord and Mount Esja. Around the house there was an extensive, beautifully lit garden that was clearly well tended. The shrubby potentilla and alpine cinquefoil, as well as the Hansa roses and pansies had all died back with the autumn.

It had been unusually cold recently, with a northerly wind and bitter temperatures. A dry gust blew the leaves along the road to the end of the cul-de-sac. Erlendur parked his car and looked up at the house. He took a deep breath before going inside. This was the second suicide in a week. Perhaps it was due to the onset of autumn and the thought of the long dark winter ahead.

It had fallen to him to contact the man on behalf of the Reykjavík police, as was the custom. The Selfoss force had already decided to transfer the case to Reykjavík for 'appropriate handling', as they called it. A priest had been sent to see the man. They were sitting in the kitchen when Erlendur arrived. The priest opened the door to him and showed him into the kitchen, explaining that he was the vicar of Grafarvogur. María had attended a different church but they had been unable to contact her vicar.

The husband, a lean, strongly built man wearing a white shirt and jeans, was sitting very still at the kitchen table. Erlendur introduced himself and they shook hands. The man's name was Baldvin. The vicar stood by the kitchen door.

'I must go to the cottage,' Baldvin said.

'Yes, the body has been —' Erlendur started, but got no further.

'I was told that ...' Baldvin began.

'We'll go with you if you like. Though the body has in fact been transferred to Reykjavík. To the morgue on Barónsstígur. We thought you would prefer that to the hospital in Selfoss.'

'Thank you.'

'We'll need you to identify her.'

'Naturally. Of course.'

'Was she alone at Thingvellir?'

'Yes, she went there two days ago to do some work and was due back in town this evening. She said she'd be late. She'd lent the cottage to a friend for the weekend. Or that's what she told me. Said she might hang around and wait for her.'

'It was her friend Karen who found her. Do you know her?'


'Were you here at home?'


'When did you last speak to your wife?'

'Yesterday evening. Before she went to bed. She had her mobile phone at the cottage.'

'So you hadn't heard from her at all today?'

'No, not at all.'

'She wasn't expecting you at Thingvellir?'

'No. We were going to spend the weekend in town.'

'But she was expecting her friend this evening?'

'Yes, so I gathered. The vicar told me that María probably ... did it ... yesterday evening?'

'The pathologist hasn't given us a more accurate time of death yet.'

Baldvin was silent.

'Had she tried to do this before?' Erlendur asked.

'This? Suicide? No, never.'

'Did you know she was in a bad way?'

'She's been a bit depressed and down,' Baldvin said. 'But not so ... this is ...'

He broke down in tears.

The vicar met Erlendur's eye and signalled that that was enough for the moment.


Excerpted from Hypothermia by Arnaldur Indridason, Victoria Cribb. Copyright © 2007 Arnaldur Indridason. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Arnaldur Indridason, author of the Reykjavík Thrillers, was born in 1961. He worked at an Icelandic newspaper, first as a journalist and then for many years as a film reviewer. He won the Glass Key Award for Best Nordic Crime Novel for both Jar City and Silence of the Grave, and in 2005 Silence of the Grave also won the Crime Writers Gold Dagger Award for best crime novel of the year. The film of Jar City (available on DVD) was Iceland's entry for the 2008 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. Indridason lives in Reykjavík with his family.

ARNALDUR INDRIÐASON won the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Silence of the Grave and is the only author to win the Glass Key Award for Best Nordic Crime Novel two years in a row, for Jar City and Silence of the Grave. Strange Shores was nominated for the 2014 CWA Gold Dagger Award.

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Hypothermia 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 42 reviews.
macabr More than 1 year ago
The atmosphere of HYPOTHERMIA is cold. The weather is cold and so are many of the characters, cold to the needs and the fears of those who trust them. Maria is devastated by her mother's death. Leonora had been dying for two years, slowly being consumed by cancer. Maria is married to Baldvin, a doctor, but it is the relationship with her mother that has determined her life. Since her father's death when Maria was ten, Leonora has protected her daughter from all danger and over-protected so that Maria was afraid to move beyond the boundaries established by Leonora. Not deeply involved in this life, she is obsessed by the next one. Inspector Erlendur is given the task of meeting with Baldvin after he has been notified of his wife's death. The doctor maintains there was nothing in his wife's behavior or attitude that suggested that she was contemplating suicide. He acknowledges that Maria was still consumed by her mother's death but he thought she was improving. But Erlendur is approached by Maria's best friend, Karen, the woman who found the body at the summer cottage. She gives Erlendur a tape that was made during a seance and she tells the inspector that Maria believed in dreams and that Leonora was going to send her a sign if there was, indeed, life in the next world. The old man was back to see Erlendur, a visit he has made, first with his wife, for nearly thirty years. His son, David, had disappeared without a trace but the old man is convinced beyond question that he did not commit suicide. Erlendur has kept the case open for the sake of the father; now the old man tells Erlendur that this will be his last visit. He is dying and is living in a nursing home and he is resigned to dying without ever knowing what happened to his son. A woman disappeared at the same time as David. The woman, Gudrun, was a student who disappeared while her parents were traveling in China and Japan. Reliable phone contact wasn't a given and calls over such a long distance had to be booked in advance. They didn't realize their daughter was missing until they returned to Europe, two months after Gudrun had last been seen. They blamed themselves for being out of touch but they, too, insisted that she would never have committed suicide. Erlendur has no reasonsable excuse for continuing to investigate Maria's suicide. He has no reasonable expectation of being able to solve the missing persons cases after nearly thirty years, but Erlendur is compelled to keep searching just as he his compelled to continue searching for his brother, lost in a blizzard when Erlendur was ten and his brother only eight. He has always felt guilty that he survived and his brother did not. Erlendur is surrounded by ghosts. Maria, her father, Magnus, her mother, Leonora, David, Gudrun, the man lost in the blizzard and his brother, Bergur. Indridason is a master of psychological manipulation. It is the characters that move the story, not the events. His characters are perfectly normal and, sometimes, perfectly evil.
MSbookloverCT More than 1 year ago
Loved this book...it's an old fashioned murder mystery, Nordic style. Past and present are woven seamlessly to create a whodunit with plenty of twists and turns and a mystical feel. Can't wait to read the others in the series!
Lynie More than 1 year ago
Inspector Erlunder is a sad and solitary man. He's haunted by the ghosts of unsolved crimes as well as the long ago disappearance of his brother and his failed marriage. He's hounded by his troubled daughter and son to try to rekindle a relationship with his ex-wife, something neither of them wants. Amidst all of his personal angst, he's currently investigating the suspected suicide of a young woman while still puzzling over two young people who went missing over 30 years ago. Slowly and methodically, Erlunder unfolds a sinister plot surrounding the young woman's death, as well as fitting together the pieces of the puzzle of the thirty year disappearance. HYPOTHERMIA is a quiet mystery. Without pages filled with blood and gore, the focus is on Indridason's characters and Indridason intricately weaves Erlunder's own story into the cases he's trying to solve in this chilly Icelandic suspense novel. Lynn Kimmerle
luso More than 1 year ago
Hypothermia stay true to the cold feeling of this series. The mystery in this book didn't captivate me as thoroughly as some of the others in the series. Nevertheless, the weaving of two mysteries into one was phenomenal and in the end left me with great anticipation for the next. At this point I will probably read anything Mr. Indridason puts out.
Maeday More than 1 year ago
I love Inspector Erlunder. Can't wait for the next book (in paperback).
AndreaSG More than 1 year ago
Really atmospheric, difficult, dark- if you like Henning Mankell, or any of the other Scandinavian writers like Jo Nesbo this will really appeal to you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Have read the whole series. This was no where as good as the others. Surprised at the other reviews. Preposterous plot. The entire book had one boring theme
bopdocret More than 1 year ago
Absolutely fascinating and intriguing. A great, great read as are the others in this series
Book_LoverVA More than 1 year ago
Forget the morose Swedes and dark dismal Sweden - not you have a morose detective in dark dismal Iceland. That means the criminals have little place to go, little daylight to move in, and only 130,000 other people with whom they can speak (the total world-wide speakers of Icelandic). If you have been to Iceland (we have in both mid-summer and mid-winter) you will love it. If you have not - you will want to go. A good read.
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jezebel_nj More than 1 year ago
I read this in 2 days... it's one of those books you literally can't put down... I even carried it to my appointments so I could fine a few minutes to keep reading it... Treat yourself....
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