Archive for the ‘Arnaldur Indridason’ Category

I’m beginning to get into Nordic mysteries so when I saw Detective Inspector Huss by Helene Tursten (“first in the bestselling Swedish mystery series”) at Northshire Books in Saratoga Springs, NY, I had to do my civic independent bookstore duty and buy the book. It’s always best to start a series at the beginning, no?


Prominent Goteborg, Sweden businessman Richard von Knecht plunges to his death right in front of his wife and son who were exiting their car. Initially, the fall was considered a “Society Suicide” but no one could fathom why the ever lively, fun loving von Knecht would jump. When medical examiner Yvonne Stridner concludes that it is homicide, not suicide, the Violent Crimes team, composed of Detective Superintendent Swen Andersson, Detective Inspector Irene Huss and a battery of policemen and women, are soon involved. Of course, initially, no motive for murder seems plausible, but as the team digs, things are not what they seemed.

My only Nordic mystery reading experience consists of the dark, brooding mysteries of Arnaldur Indridason’s Inspector Erlendur mysteries, which I love. My viewing experience consists of the excellent The Bron (The Bridge) which is also dark and both the British and Swedish versions of Wallander (of which the former is dark and the latter, not so much). Therefore, I expected a darker than normal book, which is not really what I got.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Detective Inspector Huss and would definitely read the eight or so books in the series, but it wasn’t as compelling as Inspector Erlendur. Huss is approaching 40 and is feeling the uncertainty that goes along with aging. She’s got twin daughters who are going through their growing pains. All of this complicates an already complicated investigation. The secondary characters are interesting in their own right. In television lingo, it is a good ‘ensemble’ cast, which is good because there is an associated Swedish TV series, starring Angela Kovacs who starred in the initial season of Mankell’s Wallander.

There’s enough swift moving action to keep readers interested. Huss runs into a bunch of unsavory characters including Hell’s Angels and friends of von Knecht (just because you’re rich doesn’t mean you can’t be unsavory).

The only thing I found offputting was the sexism exhibited by some of the police team. The book was written in 1998, so maybe it was merely my 2016 mentality, but it didn’t ring true.

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The Faroe Islands are midway between Norway and Iceland in the North Atlantic and therefore, from a geographical standpoint, mysteries from that region should have the noir-ish bent of say an Arnaldur Indridason Icelandic mystery or a Jo Nesbo Norwegian mystery. And while The Blood Strand describes the bleak setting of a cold, windy, rainy group of islands, it doesn’t have that overall bleakness that Indridason incorporates into his novels.BloodStrand.jpg

Signar Ravnsfjall, noted Faroe businessman, is found unconscious in his car in a lay-by in Tjornuvik, a remote part of the island of Streymoy. There are blood splatters on the car, a shattered window, a shotgun in the passenger foot well and an attaché case of money in the boot.

CID Detective Hjalti Hentze is in charge of the case. Soon after, another body is found, that of Tummas Gramm, a laborer and ne’er-do-well, who has what looks like a shot gun wound in his stomach. Are these two incidents related?

Upon hearing that his estranged father, Signar, is unconscious and hospitalized, Police Detective Jan Reyna is convinced by his Aunt Ketty (who raised him after his mother’s death) to leave England and visit his father. They haven’t spoken in years and their previous encounter was not cordial…as a matter of fact, it ended in a fist fight.

Reyna is met at the hospital by his half brother, Magnus, as strong willed as their father, and equally stubborn and willing to do anything to preserve the family reputation. He is also met by Frida, a cousin who is Magnus’ opposite.

As should be expected, Reyna becomes involved in the investigation, with Hentze and his boss juggling his utility against his kinship with the Ravnsfjall family.

I really enjoyed The Blood Strand which is more than just a murder mystery. Reyna is trying to learn about his family, since he and his mother left the islands when he was three. While doing so, he struggles to figure out where he stands within the family and how much he actually cares about them. Meanwhile, he and Hentze are trying to solve the murder.

Hentze and Reyna play off of each other very well and should author Ould decide that Reyna should remain in the islands and make this into a series, I personally would be quite happy.

P.S. I just learned that The Blood Strand is the first book in a planned trilogy. Excellent!

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ReykjavikNightsThe year is 1974 in this Inspector Erlendur series prequel. Erlendur is a new traffic cop on the night shift driving around with two partners. Called to a domestic dispute, Erlendur is reminded of a homeless alcoholic named Hannibal who drowned in a nearby pond the previous year. It was thought he was drunk and accidentally drowned. Erlendur is intrigued by unsolved cases, especially disappearances. Having met Hannibal several times on his beat, on his own time Erlandur begins looking at the police files regarding the drowning and searching for clues. As he talks to more and more people, relatives and fellow street people, he gains some knowledge of Hannibal and his life.

Erlendur also remembers that a young woman disappeared at the same time as Hannibal’s drowning and has not been heard from since. She apparently was out drinking with some friends, left the bar and never made it home. Erlendur begins investigating this disappearance as well, talking to her friends and her husband.

Reykjavik Nights is not as riveting as previous Erlendur books, nor is it as dark. However, young Erlendur is still a solid character, socially awkward, a loner, driven even then. He’s more of a Columbo-like character, always coming back with another set of questions. Readers gain some insight into Erlendur’s character and his entrée into criminal investigation. They get a smidgen of a taste as to why he is obsessed with disappearances. His police partners play minimal, more comical roles in this foray. There is a hint of romance, as well.
At the end, Erlendur meets his future CID mentor, Marion Briem, who plays key roles in his investigations. Erlendur fans as well as readers of Icelandic mysteries and police procedurals will devour the entire series. You can begin with this book or the initial first book in the series, Jar City. It doesn’t matter. You’ll soon become a fan. I read somewhere that Indridason wants to write a series of prequels and I, for one, wouldn’t mind learning about those intervening years, from young cop to seasoned veteran.

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JarCityA man is found murdered in his basement apartment, head cracked open, and Inspector Erlendur is assigned the case. The only clue: a handwritten, three word note found on the body. The murder weapon? A bloody glass ash tray is found at the scene, as well as blood found on the corner of an overturned coffee table. The motive? Unknown. In searching the apartment, Erlendur finds a blurry photo of a graveyard headstone pasted under a desk drawer. What the note and photo mean baffle Erlendur and his team, Sigurdur Oli and Elinborg.

As you may know, whenever I go to a new mystery bookstore, I ask for a must read recommendation. I went to the Mysterious Bookshop in lower Manhattan because I thought they had a good selection of pulp mysteries. Wrong! But I asked my question. The first bookseller waffled and started pulling all different types of mysteries off the shelf-none even close to the police procedurals/legal dramas I named for him.

The second bookseller when straight to Jar City; no hesitations. It was right on. Erlendur is a person. He is long-time divorced, has no relationship with his 20-something son and a very strained relationship with his drug addicted daughter. In some respects he’s the Icelandic version of Columbo; sleeps in his clothes and always looks rumpled. He’s persistent in the face of co-worker doubt. And, his far-fetched theories typically pan out.

Indridason takes Jar City into avenues not anticipated by the reader after learning about the murder, that is the investigation of a death occurring 40 years earlier. Iceland and its natives provide a very unique backdrop for this mystery.

Jar City won the Nordic Crime Novel Award and its sequel, Silence of the Grave, which I recently read, won both this award and the Gold Dagger Award. It’s nice to find a new mystery author with a unique style and not too many books in the series to catch up on. With only six or eight books, I can definitely keep up. So, if you’re looking for a good rainy mystery (it seems they were going through their version of Noah’s flood), Jar City and Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indridason.

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