BookBrowse Reviews Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indridason

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Arctic Chill

A Thriller

by Arnaldur Indridason

Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indridason X
Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indridason
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2009, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2010, 352 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Joanne Collings
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


An Icelandic police procedural set in modern, multicultural Reykjavik

I do my traveling by armchair these days and I've come to believe that you can become very familiar with another culture through its crime fiction. There's something so universal about police, detectives, and amateur sleuths that immediately eases you into a foreign world. In his fifth U.S. publication, Iceland's Arnaldur Indridason returns with a stand-alone Inspector Erlendur novel that reveals the shadow side of a newly multicultural Reykjavik (Iceland's capital city).

Iceland is not much on the minds of most Americans, even after its recent financial meltdown. It's a place Sunee, the mother of the murdered child in Arctic Chill, had never even heard of in her native Thailand until she was wooed by an Icelandic man. Now he's moved on and she's living in an apartment in Reykjavik with their son, Elias, and Niran, her older son she never told the man about. She doesn't speak or understand much Icelandic, but she wants to stay, works hard, and attempts to keep parts of her native culture alive in a place that is cold to her in most ways. And now Elias is dead.

It falls to Inspector Erlendur and his team, Sigurdur Oli and Elinborg (these are all first names - see sidebar), to determine what happened. Since Iceland's immigrant population has been rapidly growing and since Elias is dark-skinned, the idea that this may have been a racially motivated crime has to be considered. And there are, sadly, no shortage of suspects, including some of Elias's teachers.

Erlendur is a wonderfully melancholic character. He has never recovered from the death of his younger brother, who disappeared in the same blizzard Erlendur was rescued from, and is obsessed with Iceland's large body of literature on the subject of people who have disappeared. He and the younger Sigurdur Oli have little in common:

The two men were poles apart in their thinking. While Erlendur sat at home reading old Icelandic folklore or fiction, Sigurdur Oli would sit in front of the television watching American cop shows with a bowl of popcorn in his lap and a bottle of coke on the table. When he joined the force he modelled himself on such programmes. He was not alone in thinking that a job with the police could sharpen one's image. Recruits still occasionally turned up for work dressed like American TV cops, in jeans and back-to-front baseball caps.

But, along with Elinborg, they are excellent cops, horrified by the murder of Elias and what it might mean about their country. When Sunee hides Niran and won't tell them where he is, Erlendur realizes "'We can't begin to understand what it's really like for immigrants in this country… It's bound to be tough and I think it's very hard for us to put ourselves in their shoes. Racism may not be an everyday occurrence here but we know that not everyone's happy with the way society is going.'"

The crime's resolution is stunning and unexpected, but also completely believable. This is not much comfort to Erlendur, who bitterly chastises himself for not seeing the forest for the trees. "He had forgotten the caution designed to protect him from blundering when he did not know the terrain. Arrogance had led him astray. He had overlooked other obvious possibilities; something that should not have happened to him."

Arctic Chill is unique among Idridason's Erlendur books: the previous four all revolve around crimes connected to the past. This one combines the best aspects of Indridason's earlier books with a new and compelling awareness of Iceland now. I expect even better things with his next book which I hope will take on the recent economic collapse in his country.

Series Order to Date

  1. Jar City (2004) aka Tainted Blood
  2. Silence of the Grave (2005)
  3. Voices (2006)
  4. The Draining Lake (2007)
  5. Arctic Chill (2008)
  6. Hypothermia (2009)

Just published, Operation Napoleon (2010), a stand-alone novel which opens in Iceland in 1945.

Reviewed by Joanne Collings

This review was originally published in October 2009, and has been updated for the September 2010 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Fountains of Silence
    The Fountains of Silence
    by Ruta Sepetys
    The Spanish Civil War and its aftermath was a complicated period in history. The issues each side ...
  • Book Jacket: Curious Toys
    Curious Toys
    by Elizabeth Hand
    In Curious Toys, Elizabeth Hand tells the story of Vivian, a 14-year-old girl disguised as a boy ...
  • Book Jacket: Your House Will Pay
    Your House Will Pay
    by Steph Cha
    Steph Cha's novel Your House Will Pay shows how a legacy of violence and injustice can ripple ...
  • Book Jacket: Divide Me By Zero
    Divide Me By Zero
    by Lara Vapnyar
    Divide Me By Zero begins with an encounter between the narrator, Katya Geller, a 40-something mother...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Mighty Justice
    by Dovey Johnson Roundtree & Katie McCabe

    An inspiring life story that speaks urgently to our troubled times.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Nothing to See Here
    by Kevin Wilson

    A moving and uproarious novel about a woman who finds meaning caring for two children with remarkable abilities.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Home for Erring and Outcast Girls

From the author of
Calling Me Home

An emotionally raw and resonant story of two young women connected by a home for "fallen girls," and inspired by historical events.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

W G Up M C D

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.