INSPECTOR ERLENDUR RETURNS IN THIS ICY, INTENSE REYKJAVIK THRILLER
On an icy January day, the Reykjavik police are called to a block of apartments where a body has been found in the garden: a young, dark-skinned boy is frozen to the ground in a pool of blood. Erlendur and his team embark on their investigation and soon unearth tensions simmering beneath the surface of Iceland's outwardly liberal, multicultural society. Meanwhile, the boy's murder forces Erlendur to confront the tragedy in his own past.
Master crime writer Arnaldur Indridason's Arctic Chill renders a vivid portrait of Iceland's brutal, little-known culture wars in a taut, fast-paced police procedural.
About the Author
ARNALDUR INDRIDASON is the author of Jar City, Silence of the Grave, Voices, and The Draining Lake, all published by Minotaur. He 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. The film of Jar City, now available on DVD from Blockbuster, was Iceland's entry for the 2008 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, and the film of his next book, Silence of the Grave, is currently in production with the same director. His thrillers have sold more than five million copies in over 25 countries around the world. He lives in Iceland.
Read an Excerpt
By Arnaldur Indridason, Bernard Scudder, Victoria Cribb
PicadorCopyright © 2005 Arnaldur Indridason
All rights reserved.
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 ...CHAPTER 2
Elínborg accompanied the boy's mother to the morgue on Barónsstígur. She was a short, petite woman, in her mid-thirties and tired after a long day at work. Her thick, dark hair was tied in a ponytail, her face round and friendly. The police had found out where she worked and two men were sent to collect her. It took them some time to explain to her what had happened and that she had to go with them. They drove up to the flats where Elínborg joined them in the car and realised that they needed an interpreter. One of the policemen contacted the Multicultural Centre, which sent a woman to meet them at the morgue.
The interpreter had not yet turned up when Elínborg arrived with the mother. She accompanied the woman straight into the morgue where the pathologist was waiting for them. When the mother saw her son she let out a piercing howl and slumped into Elínborg's arms. She screamed something in her own language. At that moment the interpreter walked in, an Icelandic woman about the same age as the mother, and together she and Elínborg tried to comfort her. Elínborg got the impression that the two women were acquainted. The interpreter tried to talk to the mother in a soothing tone but, out of her wits with grief and helplessness, she tore herself loose, threw herself onto the boy and cried at the top of her voice.
Eventually they managed to get her out of the morgue and into a police car, which drove her straight home. Elínborg told the interpreter that the mother ought to ask a member of her family or a friend to be with her during this painful ordeal, someone close to her, someone she trusted. The interpreter passed on the message but the mother showed no response.
Elínborg explained to the interpreter how Elías had been found lying in the garden behind the block of flats. She described the police investigation and asked her to inform the mother.
'She has a brother in Iceland,' the interpreter said. 'I'll contact him.'
'Do you know this woman?' Elínborg asked.
The interpreter nodded.
'Have you lived in Thailand?'
'Yes, for several years,' the interpreter said. 'I first went there as an exchange student.'
She said her name was Gudný, and she was slender and quite short, with dark hair and large glasses. She wore a thick woollen sweater and jeans under a black coat, and had a white woollen shawl over her shoulders.
When they arrived back at the flats, the woman asked to be shown where her son was found and they took her into the garden. It was pitch dark by now but the forensics team had set up lights and cordoned off the area. News of the murder had spread rapidly. Elínborg noticed two bouquets of flowers laid against the wall of the block of flats, where a growing crowd was gathering by the police cars, looking on in silence.
The mother went through the police cordon. Forensics technicians in white overalls stopped their work and watched her. She was soon standing alone but for the interpreter at the place where her son had been found dead. She knelt down, placed the palm of her hand on the ground and wept.
Erlendur emerged from the darkness and watched her.
'We ought to go up to her flat,' he said to Elínborg, who nodded in reply.
Excerpted from Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indridason, Bernard Scudder, Victoria Cribb. Copyright © 2005 Arnaldur Indridason. Excerpted by permission of Picador.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Reading Group Guide
About this Guide
The following author biography and list of questions about Arctic Chill are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach Arctic Chill.
About the Book
Inspector Erlendur is back in another thriller by Gold Dagger Award-winner Arnaldur Indridason. Elias, a ten-year-old boy of Thai extraction, has been found stabbed outside his apartment building. But Erlendur, Sigurdur Oli, and Elinbourg conclude from Elias's history that he was a good student, and a shy but all-around sweet little boy. They cannot see how he could have been the victim of foul play. Rather, it is Elias's older brother, Niran, who makes them nervous. Unlike Elias, Niran was not born in Iceland and has had a difficult time adjusting to a different culture and a new language. He has had discipline problems at school and was rumored to hang out with a tough crowd. But as much as Erlendur would like to talk to Niran, he can'tNiran has gone missing.
Niran eventually does turn up, but he is silent. Either fear or guilt has prompted him to keep his mouth shut. In the meantime, as the clues begin to add up, the full ambivalence of Iceland's attitude towards immigrants comes to the surface. Erlendur and his team find an openly racist teacher at Elias's school who denounces immigration in the classroom. They find ‘gangs' of Icelandic children who pick fights with immigrant children. Erlendur and his team are now undecided as to whether to investigate this as a hate crime or whether to implicate the brother, who has now been secreted away by concerned family members. The heinous murder of a little boy and the complex racial tensions Indridason portrays in Arctic Chill give us plenty to talk about.
1. Why might immigration be a bigger problem in Iceland than in the United States? Do you think there would be more or less racism in Iceland than in the US? Why?
2. Do you think that it's possible that either Erlendur, Sigurdur Oli or Elinbourg might have any unresolved feelings about immigration? Based on what we already know about their characters, do you think that their personal feelings could ever interfere with their conduct of an investigation?
3. What do you think account's for Erlendur's theory of Iceland's "indifference" to missing persons (p.85)? Do you agree with his account of how Iceland might be culturally more accepting of disappearances?
4. Elias's frozen death in the Icelandic winter brings back painful memories for Erlendur. Does Erlendur really believe that he murdered his brother when he lost him in the snow as a young boy? Did Erlendur unconsciously become a detective in order to catch himself?
5. In learning about what Niran's experience has been like, we come to see that Asian immigrants feel alienated in Iceland, and yet also cut off from their own cultural origins. Why? What would it look like for a person to be both Icelandic and proudly embrace his/her Asian heritage?
6. What were Sunee's motives in having Niran taken away? Was she right not to trust the police? What would you have done in her situation?
7. Throughout Erlendur's relationship with Marion Briem, there had been a certain ambivalence. Erlendur often went to Marion for advice, was often annoyed by Marion, and yet felt a certain obligation to be there for his mentor. As Marion dies, Erlendur finally realizes that he appreciated Marion. What was Marion's role in Erlendur's life?
8. Do you think that we might be hearing more in later books about Gestur, the mysterious man implicated by Andres as a pedophile who disappeared from the police without a trace? Or did Indridason just introduce his character in order to throw us off the scent of the real killer?
9. What do you think is likely to happen to Niran now in the Icelandic court system? Do you think he'll be treated with the same consideration that an Icelandic youth would? Will he be treated with more or less sympathy given the circumstances of his crime?
10. Do you think the killers' apparently arbitrary choice of Elias as a victim will ultimately be of greater comfort to Sunee than if his death had been a hate crime? Why or why not?
11. Why do you think Erlendur was so inclined to think that the voice he kept hearing on his phone was the voice of the missing wife from a different case? Is it difficult for Erlendur to cope with letting certain cases go unsolved?
12. Why do you think Erlendur's daughter Eva Lind was so interested in the stories surrounding Erlendur's brother's disappearance? Is she attempting to find sympathy for Erlendur or is she trying to get revenge on him for leaving them when they were children?
13. What do you think it would take for Erlendur to find peace with himself for the disappearance of his brother? If he did find peace, do you think he would remain a police detective, or would he want to try and start a new life for himself?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.
"Arctic Chill" is my first experience with Arnaldur Indridason¿s police procedurals, so I do not have the earlier novels in the series to use as a yardstick. "Arctic Chill" is, in fact, the fifth of six ¿Reykjavik Thrillers¿ (if, that is, they were translated and published here in the order in which they were written) to be translated from the original Icelandic for publication in the U.S. And I am intrigued enough by the book¿s main characters, atmosphere, and attention to detail that I will be seeking others in the series.When he sees the little Asian boy frozen to the ground in a pool of his own blood, Erlendur fears the child has been the victim of a hate crime. What he sees, however, deeply disturbs him for an additional reason; it reminds him of his own little brother, lost to a blizzard decades earlier. Erlendur soon discovers that the mixed-race child is the son of a Thai woman who had the courage to move to Iceland to begin a new life in her husband¿s home country. Worryingly, the woman also has an older son who has not been seen since before his younger brother¿s body was found not far from the apartment they share with their now divorced mother.Detective Erlendur and his Reykjavik police colleagues, in their effort to find the boy¿s killer, begin their enquiries, naturally enough, at his school. There, they learn of the day-to-day racism and harassment mixed-race immigrant students suffer at the hands of fellow students, and perhaps even a teacher or two. Interview by interview, clue by clue, one discovery leading them to the next, Erlendur and his crew begin to close in on the killer. "Arctic Chill" is an excellent police procedural but the book is about much more than solving one murder.Author Arnaldur Indridason takes a hard look at what immigrants, especially those from Asia or Africa, face when they come to Iceland. As in every country, native citizens have mixed emotions about immigration. On the one hand, they appreciate the willingness of the immigrants to work at the low paying jobs that have to be done. On the other, they fear that their country¿s culture will be forever corrupted by people who make no effort to assimilate into the dominant society. This is especially true in a country, like Iceland, that has a relatively small population through which to defend its cultural heritage. As Detective Erlendur himself says at an early stage of the investigation, ¿This is all so new to us. Immigrants, racial issues...we know so little about it.¿Indridason gives the reader a good feel for life in modern Iceland, a way of life still largely influenced by the demands of the country¿s harsh climate. Long, cold winters with very short days do not encourage neighbors to spend much time getting to know each other and Detective Erlendur and other characters in the book seem to have developed a rather fatalistic attitude as a result of the forced lifestyle. This portion of a paragraph from near the end of the book (a scene in which Erlendur stands alone over a grave in freezing weather) says it best: ¿There were no final answers to explain the life-long solitude of the person in the urn, or the death of his brother all those years ago, or why Erlendur was the way he was, and why Elias was stabbed to death. Life was a random mass of unforeseeable coincidences that governed men¿s fates like a storm that strikes without warning, causing injury and death.¿"Arctic Chill" won¿t cheer you up - and that¿s the point. This is a highly atmospheric book with a message and some characters I want to get to know better.Rated at: 4.5
Arctic Chill is the fifth in Indridason's Reykjavik Thriller series, but it is the first I've read. Before I had even finished reading this book, I had placed an order for the first four. This novel has much to offer the mystery aficionado: a well-crafted police procedural, an unflinching indictment of modern culture, and a glimpse into Iceland's racial tensions and changing demographics. Erlendur and his two detectives, Elinborg and Sigurdur Oli, investigate when a young Thai boy, Elias, is found stabbed to death, his blood freezing his body to the ground outside his apartment complex. Elias's mother, Sunee, had been brought to Iceland as a bride in a marriage that ended in divorce, partly because of Sunee's insistence on bringing her older son to Iceland as well. Niran's difficulties in adapting to Icelandic culture provide the backdrop for a fascinating discussion on assimilation versus preserving one's own culture. Was this crime racially motivated? There is an abundance of liberal Icelanders whose hackles have been raised by the influx of immigrants who don't learn Icelandic and whose children scoff at learning Icelandic history in school. One of Elias's teachers is full of hateful rhetoric about "those people." Hints of a possible pedophile in the area, tensions between Icelandic and immigrant children at Elias's school, the disappearance of Niran, and whispers of a boyfriend for Sunee complicate the investigation. Iceland itself is almost its own character in this novel. This is not a culture with which I was terribly familiar, and the insight was fascinating. In Iceland, disappearances are accepted as part of life in a country with an astronomical suicide rate. The Icelanders are welcoming of immigrants, but fear losing their dwindling culture. The climate is forbiddingly harsh, and it makes me wonder what keeps people there.Subplots supplemented the central murder investigation. A second mystery, the disappearance of a woman, slips into the storyline as Erlendur receives strange phone calls. Erlendur broods on the disappearance of his brother decades before while awkwardly dealing with his son and daughter turning up, and his mentor is on his deathbed. The plots altogether added up to one of the bleaker mysteries I've read, but even a clunky translation can't diminish its compelling appeal.Source disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Picador through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer Program.
I have a great fondness for noirish crime novels set in the north, so when I snagged Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indridason from the Early Reviewers program I was enormously pleased. Indridason is an Icelandic author and this book, one of a series of police procedurals, is set in Reykjavik in the winter. In Arctic Chill, the body of a boy is found near the apartment building in which he and his mother and brother live. His mother is Thai and although his father is Icelandic, the suspicion of the police is that this was a racially motivated murder.The investigation is led by the dour and unfriendly Erlender, a man who is less lonely and wounded than asocial. He's an interesting variation on the usual loner detective and although his behavior is partially explained by events in his childhood, he is an unpleasant guy. He is haunted by an earlier missing woman case and can't let it go.The novel's setting is an integral part of the story and, in the course of the investigation, Indridason explores the impact of immigrants, primarily from Asia, on the small Icelandic population. In comparison to events in the United States (where I am) the racism is mild and calmly addressed, but what really struck me about Indridason's Iceland is the isolation in which people choose to live. Marriages break up with very little thought and children are abandoned by their fathers who leave without having to support their offspring in any way and people live next to neighbors they never get to know. All this is amplified by the early dark and relentless cold of the Icelandic winter.
Arctic Chill is chilling indeed, and on many levels: racism, issues of immigration, themes of social class, trust and distrust of the police abound.The novel opens with a 10-year-old boy, the child of a Thai mother and Icelandic father, found stabbed to death in the garden of his apartment complex. There are no clues, no witnesses, the mother is less than forthcoming, and Inspecter Erlendur and his team find themselves emeshed in a rather difficult case from the get-go. Other factors begin to emerge: there's a very racist teacher at school who may have been violent toward the boy, the possibility of ethnic gangs, the boy's isolation at his new school, and his older brother's disappearance-- an older brother who may be implicated in the crime, may be in danger himself, or may hold key evidence. Even as all of this is coming into play, the possibility of a pedophile crops up. The novel abounds with uncooperative witnesses and generally unlikeable characters, all of whom have their own motives for disclosing only the information they see fit to share. The detectives find themselves faced with a wall of hostile witnesses, prejudice, and ghosts from the past, not the least of whom are Erlendur's own children, who have suddenly shown up to ask questions about their father's past.Indridason skillfully portrays characters who are not uniformally anti-immigration or uniformally racist yet each have their own set of prejudices; he shows there's not just one form of racial hostility or just one level of discomfort with multicultural society. Some characters try to justify their behavior, some are forthright about their beliefs, but there is tension everywhere; this is an Iceland in the midst of a huge cultural shift, and Indridason's lens is aimed at capturing the blurry image of this shifting society. There's no character with whom the reader can comfortably say, "Yes, I identify with this person;' everyone's position is aimed at knocking the reader off balance. You're not allowed to feel comfortable; you feel, acutely, the discomfort that arises when a society is rapidly changing.Indridason gives us more of a view into his detectives' lives. We're allowed to delve a bit more deeply into Erlendur's past, into his youth, when his brother died during a freak blizzard during their youth. We see his relationship with his son and his daughter, and, in particular with his daughter, we see how she has matured and changed a bit from the sullen character of previous novels. We go into some depth with Sigurdur Oli and his problems with his marriage and also with his own youth, when he was involved at a riot at the very school he is now investigating. Elinborg perhaps gets the shorter end of the stick, but we do see her as a devoted mother, concerned about her sick child and how she will care for her during the long hours of a murder investigation. It's good to see the main characters fleshed out a bit; it makes the novel more than just a police procedural, allows it to be less "bare bones" than that.As a police procedural, though, is how it's in its strongest form. It comes across as a strong example of the genre. We have the hardened Inspector, his dying mentor, the attendant detectives, and their quest for justice. We have them following the breadcrumbs of a trail of sparse clues, relying on the previously-mentioned unreliable witness testimony and their gut instinct to move them forward. There are no fancy forensics here, just sheer hard work, making the right connections, dotting all the Is and crossing all the Ts. It's harsh work set against a harsh and unforgiving landscape.Indriadason hits the right notes here, balancing police procedural with humanizing his characters and setting it all up against a chaotic time in contemporary Iceland. Mix well, and you have a satisfying concoction of a murder mystery.
I have not read the preceeding books in the series, but Artic Chill, as a stand-alone compares favorably to Mankell's Wallander series. The main character, Erlendur, is an introspective inspector who is attempting to unravel life and Iceland, as much as the presented crime. The central plot revolves around a murdered young boy and his missing brother, whom are Thai immigrants to Iceland. I found both the plot and the characters to be compelling. Although it is a crime book/police procedural; it is much more substantial than most. Whereas the Wallander series' crimes had an occasional tendency to drift into the fanciful; Artic Chill resides within reality -- making Erlendur's observations even more poignant. Larsson's Girl series, although immensensly entertaining, feels comic bookish compared to Artic Chill. I would like to see the individual characters expanded slightly more. I would tend to agree with others that the translation was awkward in several instances; and, particularly in the beginning of the book, I wondered if the translation was capturing the full flavor of the original. All and all I was very impressed and believe Indridason deserves a spot next to Mankell and Larsson.
This latest in the Inspector Erlendur series doesn't have a great deal of action. Most of the mystery concerns whether a murdered Icelandic/Thai child was targeted because of his race, a question the main characters spend most of the book considering. There is a secondary mystery which interferes with Erlendur's focus but doesn't add too much to the suspense. All-in-all, somewhat ho-hum.
I received this book from Picador (Publishing) through the Library Thing Early Reviewers program. It has been translated from Icelandic for English readers.It is labeled as a crime thriller, but I personally didn't feel like this was a fast paced novel. At 344 pages long, I only really began to get pulled in at halfway. The translation seemed well done, but was definitely more geared towards the European reader as some of the slang and terminology as well as the spelling where British English. This did not deter from the overall story for me but I feel like it must be mentioned.This novel starts out with the murder of a Thai boy in Reykjavik. Erlandur is the main detective in this series of crime stories, and you follow him through his discovery of information. There are many different threads coming together at the same time so this can be confusing at first. This story is also told mainly through dialogue; as the interaction is almost all through interviews. I enjoyed the book, once I began to really be invested in the characters. Well written, great cast, but not very intriguing from the get-go.
The boy¿s body lay face down on the ice. As the wind tore down from the arctic and snow swirled across the surface of the playground in the center of the apartment complex, Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson stared at the cold form of the 10-year-old and thought of his younger brother who had died in a blizzard on the moors when they were children and Erlendur had let go of his brother¿s hand. The body had never been found. Now here was another boy out in the storm who would not be going home to his mother. Only this boy had been stabbed. Who would do this to a child? Arnaldur Indridasson¿s Artic Chill is the fifth in his Inspector Sveinsson series, which is very much in the tradition of the Scandinavian police procedural. Like Henning Mankell¿s Wallander, Erlendur is an introspective detective, divorced, with a terminally ill colleague who reminds him of his own isolation. There is also the usual commentary on the problems fostered by a socialist society as well as the cultural divisions caused by immigration. The victim in Artic Chill is half Thai and half Icelandic, and Indridasson uses the murder investigation to present arguments both for and against the influx of immigrants into what had been a very closed society. The question of whether or not the murder was racially motivated plays heavily in the plot. In the end the crime is solved by dogged police work. Erlendur and his team close this case and move on to their next one. But Erlendur has left us with this haunting question from Iceland¿s most famous poet:Am I the one, who lives on,Or the other, who died?Steinn Steinarr, In a CemeteryFor now, this seems to be a question Erlender cannot answer.
Indriðason is so skillful at conveying that soul-penetrating chill that a dark Icelandic winter murder causes. In this book he mainly deals with the xenophobia that exists even in such a liberal country as Iceland, which, apart from the weather, seems a utopia for those fleeing poverty in their home countries. The murder is gruesome, not only because it involves a child, and the stakes are high for Erlendur and his team when the potential suspects involve teachers, pedophiles, and even the victim's own brother. The plot gets a little confusing with several story-lines that may or may not have anything to do with each other and when Erlendur inexplicably acts like an idiot and misses a huge clue, but it's still a solid mystery and I enjoyed this as much as the others in the series. A word of caution, though; the translation/editing of the text is truly sub par. There are so many awkward expressions and syntax-oddities that it sometimes slows down the reading noticeably - not a great thing in a thriller.
Arnaldur Indridason has written another Reykjavik mystery featuring Erlendur, a moody police detective haunted by a childhood experience that makes him unable to be at peace if a child is missing. Here, a young boy is killed, apparently on his way home from school. The son of an immigrant Thai woman and native Icelandic man, his older half-brother is missing as well. Erlendur searches for the older boy, hoping he holds a key to why the younger boy was killed. Iceland's mulitcultural society plays a role in defining the way the detectives examine the crime. A fast-paced thriller that opens up this island nation.
Iceland, harmoniously multicultural ... or is it? When a mixed Icelandic Thai boy is found murdered, hidden prejudices against the immigrant community surfaces against the investigation that ensues. Without any apparent clues as to motive or even suspects, Inspector Erlendur's team find themselves floundering. It doesn't help that the mother has spirited her other son away ostensibly to protect him, before they can interview him. He starts to receive strange phone calls from a woman and mistakes the identity of the caller for a missing woman in another mystery he's working on.We learn more about the pain that Inspector Erlendur still carries around with him, although in this book, it appears that his relationship with his son is making positive progress, although the one with his daughter remains fraught with peril. What's enjoyable about the series is not only is there a mystery to solve, but in each book, we are introduced to yet another aspect of Icelandic society and culture.
Arctic Chill. Arnaldur Indridason. 2005. Wikipedia says Indridason is the most popular writer in Iceland. This title is the seventh in a police procedural series that I really wanted to like. This was an interesting book, but I¿d hoped that it would include more information about Iceland. Maybe the earlier books in the series did. A Thai school boy is stabbed to death and the police eventually find the murderer. This plot allows the author to discuss the immigrant situation in Iceland. I¿ll read some more of this series if I accidentally find them, but doubt I¿ll go out of my way to look for them.
Another great Icelandic mystery by Indriðason. Arctic Chill is partly about the death of a young immigrant child, but also a cultural exploration on Iceland and immigration as a whole. Aside from the political/cultural hints scattered throughout the novel, Indriðason's characters shine through. I love reading about them and their lives almost as much as I like reading about the crime itself.
Make that 3.5...Arctic Chill is part of a series of police procedurals by Arnaldur Indridason. Set in Iceland, the cold climate plays its own role in the mysterious death of an eight-year-old boy. Three detectives, each complicated individuals on their own, combine their efforts to search for the murderer amidst the suspicion that the murder was racially motivated.Suspense was present throughout, and many of the characters involved are not the typical detective novel stereotypes that often show up in a successful series. The case doesn't have an easy resolution, and the detectives are not the Hercule Poirot-type of mentalist who seem to rely on hunches. Instead, real detective work, involving tedious interviews, re-analyzing evidence, and following leads is the way the murder is solved. You don't often see this much focus on the little repetitive details of detective work in crime novels, as some authors may think it's too trivial to be of note. Yet in this, it really works. In fact, the very unspectacular and terribly unglamourous procedural work is what creates the suspense.I enjoyed the novel immensely-it was a great cold weather read. And since I've been reading so many Icelandic novels recently, some of the descriptions of the locations felt familiar and made the story more personal. I haven't read any of the other books in the series, if I had, I may have even enjoyed it more. Because for me, one distraction was in the beginning of the novel when the three detectives begin the case. I was confused as to who was in charge, and it seemed like equal weight was given to each of the three. I'm not sure why, but it felt disorienting, like I really need to know who the 'lead' was to get involved. And by half-way, I understood. But until then, it nagged at me a bit. Those familar with the series obviously wouldn't have this problem.Other small details bugged me: one was that there seemed to be several threads of storyline that were irrelevant to the story but were probably far more important in the series. That's fine if each reader knows that it's part of a package; for me, there wasn't enough substance to the threads to make sense of why they were present, and they seemed to slow down the narrative. Finally, one especially obvious blunder (eventually set right) seemed easy to spot...it foreshadowed far too much and made me question one of the detectives capabilities. Lastly, while the detectives were interesting, I didn't find any personal draw to any of them...their hard work and intelligence was apparent, but nothing about them made me really care about them as individuals.In all, this was an absorbing read, and I do plan to read more in the series. A special comment has to be given to the beautiful way in which he describes the landscape and light that remains in the background of the scenes. I'm curious to see if my take on the detectives will change after I read more of the titles. The next one after this is Hypothermia, which I've heard nothing but good about.
The latest Erlendur book, this may be the best one yet.Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson is already struggling with a missing person case - the type of case that he has the greatest feeling for. We know from earlier books about how Erlendur, when he was 10 years old, was caught out in a blizzard with his 8-year old brother. They became separated and lost. But while Erlendur was soon found unharmed, his brother never was - nor have any remains ever been located. That experience continues to haunt him, and he has been obsessed with accounts of missing persons ever since. The main case in this book, though, is not the missing person. This book opens with the discovery of the body of a young Asian boy, lying on the frozen ground in a pool of his own blood near his Reykjavik home. The boy, 10 years old, was the son of a Thai immigrant mother and Icelandic father. With no other leads, Erlendur and his team pursue the theory that the killing was racially motivated. There is a sizable Asian population at the neighborhood school, and not everyone is pleased to have an increasing immigrant community in Iceland. While the murder investigation continues, Erlendur begins receiving anonymous phone calls - from the woman who has gone missing, he is sure - but she refuses to give her name or location. Also, his grown children are calling and coming around. Due to a messy divorce when they were young, Erlendur and his children never had a warm relationship, and now he doesn't know how to deal with them. Even more uncomfortably, they are wanting to talk about the long ago incident with the blizzard and the disappearance of the brother.This story takes place in January - the coldest and darkest time of year in Iceland. Arnaldur conveys the sense of cold isolation so effectively that I continued to pull a blanket around me while reading, even though it was warm in my room. Erlendur is a stoic, private man. Yet he is gradually being revealed without making him seem weak or broken down. I think this series just keeps getting better and better. Highly recomended.
Arctic Chill is the seventh book in the Inspector Erlendur series from award-winning crime fiction novelist Arnaldur Indridason. Erlendur is a detective with the Reykjavik police. His introspection borders on morose, but then he¿s a lousy father (he has two troubled ¿ or is that troubling? - adult children), he obsesses on his 8-year-old brother¿s death many years ago, and after all, he lives in Iceland. It can be confusing to keep track of time of events because it is always dark.A 10-year-old Thai immigrant is murdered on his way home from school. Erlendur and his sidekicks meticulously pursue numerous angles, interviewing many witnesses and possible suspects. The victim¿s half-brother disappears for a day and when he turns up his mother hustles him into hiding. (The Icelandic cops take this rather better than most American cops would do.) Why? Is the brother also in danger? Is he a witness to the ghastly crime? Or maybe's the perp? Among other suspects there¿s the neighborhood pedophile, the raging racist teacher, the school-yard bullies, and the drug-dealing gangs.Underlying the story and giving it depth is an examination of racial tensions between the largely homogeneous Icelandic population and the growing immigrant presence, especially from Asia. Arctic Chill is a fine police procedural with a surprising, but not unfair ending. I enjoyed it less than the superb [[ASIN:0312428588 The Draining Lake: A Thriller (Reykjavik Thriller)]], but it was easily good enough to draw me back for more Erlendur.
interesting story, poor translation and editing makes it irritating to read
Arctic Chill is likely one of the first detective stories I have picked up. I will read more by this author and this genre. I enjoyed the book. It was interesting to read a novel based in Iceland - gave a new perspective on the country. I enjoyed the story. I didn't feel, however, I learned very much about the characters. Probably as much the genre as the nature of the characters (mentioned several times how the various detective know nothing about their co-workers). I found the translation a bit rough in places. Overall, an easy read that captured my attention.
Bleak, introspective, gritty this Icelandic police procedural examines the racial tensions in this liberal but ethnically isolated country.Detective Erlender Sveinsson and his team are called in to investigate the death of a young boy of Icelandic/Thai descent. The boy¿s body is found frozen to the ground outside a rundown apartment house. The fragility of life is constantly brought home in this harsh Nordic climate but this boy¿s life wasn¿t taken by the elements.An uncooperative mother, an urgent need to find the boy¿s missing half brother Niran and an increasing number of suspects, confronts Erlender and his team. The investigation takes the reader down dark alleys, around unexpected corners and into the lives of the suspects and the investigating team. What is ultimately revealed is a depressing truth about society.This is a tight police procedural that balances suspense and human emotion. Complicated characters and an unfamiliar landscape will have readers wanting to read other books in this series. Recommended for fans of Colin Dexter¿s introspective Inspector Morse and Henning Mankell¿s Inspector Wallendar.
As usual, Indridason delivers another good story here...not just a good mystery, but his insights into Iceland as a place and into its problems add to the entire series as a whole.Just a brief synopsis first: During a very cold Icelandic winter, a young boy, the son of a Thai immigrant and her Icelandic husband, is found dead in front of his apartment building, with his body stuck to its own pool of blood. To make matters worse, it seems that his older brother is missing. As Erlendur and his team (Sigurdur Oli & Elinborg) start to work on the case, several theories present themselves -- was it a crime based on racism? Or was it the work of a pedophile known to be back in the area? Or, even worse, did the missing brother have anything to do with the young boy's death? While all of this is going on, Erlendur is also battling with the case of a woman who disappeared -- and both cases are bringing back his memories of his lost brother.As anyone who reads Scandinavian crime fiction knows, most of these authors incorporate their own commentary (via plotline & dialogue) about current social issues & problems in their respective countries. One of the themes prevalent in this novel is that of the problems of immigration in Iceland, which Indridason handles very skillfully. It's not just a question of how native Icelanders feel about immigration, but he also reveals the problems faced by immigrants who go there - for example, lack of language skills that hinder their ability to fully become members of Icelandic society, and the fact that families bring older children into the country who tend to have problems fitting in with the rest of their peer groups because they feel out of place. Indridason shows the feelings on both sides of the issue, treating the subject with a great deal of fairness each way.As always, Indridason's writing, his sense of place, his character development and his ability to create well-constructed plots are all in top form here. However, while I understand that Erlendur's missing brother is one of those dark parts of his life that make him tick and make him who he is, and that it explains why he's fascinated with missing persons cases, and while I understand that this case of the two brothers reminds him of his own sad past, regular readers of this series already know all of this. Is the author maybe throwing this in for people who haven't yet read these books? Overall, another good one by Indridason, whose entire Erlendur series is highly intelligent, making him one of those authors whose works I just can't wait to get my hands on. My advice: read them in order because these characters are not static and unchanging, but rather they are dynamic and becoming more human with every installment. Recommended to people who like Scandinavian crime fiction as well as mystery readers who want intelligence in their crime.
In January a young boy's body is found behind the apartment block he lived in with his mother and step-brother. He was stabbed in the stomach and bled to deat before he could get home. He is half Thai because his mother came to Iceland after meeting an Icelander in Thailand. His mother and father have been divorced for some time and he and his step-brother started a new school in the past year. The investigating police, Erlendur, Sigridur Oli and Elinborg, immediately wonder if the killing is racially motivated. The boy's half-brother is missing and the police think he must know something about the murder. The investigation takes a long time to uncover any information; even the step-brother takes quite a while to find. Then his mother spirits him away before the police can question him. Is this because he is guilty, because he knows something that may put him at risk or because she is afraid he may be killed?Erlendur is still preoccupied with a missing person case he was working on. A woman disappeared from her home just after Christmas and has not been heard from since. Erlendur takes a special interest in missing persons cases because when he was a young boy he and his brother were caught in a blizzard and his brother's body was never found.Erlendur is similar to Ian Rankin's John Rebus to my mind. He is a loner, devoted to his work but knows he should have a social life. He is somewhat estranged from his children and he is obsessed with Icelandic tales of disappearances and murders.It took me a while to get interested in this book. The tension builds slowly but by about half way through I was reading it every chance I got. I'll be looking out for more books by this author.