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Hypothermia by Arnaldur Indriðason

Originally posted on Wed, Oct 27 2010 at ROPL.org.

Back with his eighth Detective Erlendur novel, his sixth to be translated into English, Indriðason is at his best. Hypothermia is not a traditional murder mystery, but it is definitely a mystery.

What makes Scandinavian mysteries stand out from the rest of the genre is their use of the landscape, both physical and emotional, of the countries where the novels take place. In Indriðason’s case, the country is Iceland. in his previous novels, Detective Erlendur and his coworkers work together to solve crimes, usually very strange ones. The novels spend a little time with each of the members of Erlendur’s team, as well as the detective himself, but most of the focus is on the mystery they’re trying to solve.

Hypothermia is a completely different type of novel. Sure, there’s a mystery to be solved, but it’s not quite a murder. In fact, it’s a suicide. The novel works from two points of view, that of the woman who killed herself and Erlendur. The shifts in POV take place sporadically over the novel, giving us glimpses into what really happened — while Erlendur is trying to solve the case.

What makes Hypothermia so good, and so different, is that it’s a novel about obsession. Erlendur, for reasons we learn as we learn more about him, is obsessed with this woman’s suicide. This obsessions bleeds into other parts of his life — including his relationships with his family and two unsolved missing persons cases, and mysteries from his own past.

Indriðason’s writing is both moving and intimate with Victoria Cribb’s translation bringing a warmth to the story. While you don’t need to have read the rest of the Detective Erlendur series (at least those translated into English), it is helpful to understand the characters, especially those who usually play important roles, but have been relegated to the sidelines for this particular novel.

Set aside a few days and delve into the world of Detective Erlendur and his obsessions.

Other books by Indriðason:

Jar City
Silence of the Grave
The Draining Lake
Arctic Chill

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