The Draining Lake is the fourth of Arnaldur Indridason’s award-winning crime novels to be published in English and this at a time when Jar City, a film version of his first novel about Detective Erlendur (Tainted Blood) is receiving unexpected critical acclaim and is set to be one of the big hits of the year.
Erlendur is not unlike many contemporary fictional detectives. He is a middle-aged, educated, well-read, politically liberal, thoughtful workaholic, whose professional success stands in stark contrast to his shambolic private life. Divorced, Erlendur spends his time between his obsession for work and attempting to deal with his highly dysfunctional (grown-up) children. Work always comes first.
Indridason, by profession a journalist, seems to get better with each novel and I found The Draining Lake the most satisfying and complex so far, combining the genres of the detective novel with the spy thriller. As the water levels on a lake reduce, a skeleton is revealed, and what follows is a story that lies rooted within Icelandic politics and Cold War espionage. But it is also a story of youthful disillusionment and political cynicism, as well as nostalgia and political idealism. As someone who has never been to Iceland, I feel it is a much more familiar place as a result of reading Indridason – especially as the country is currently in the news, having prospered hugely over the last decade through the international credit boom and now facing financial meltdown in the face of the global economic crisis.