2011/6 Arctic Chill

Arctic Chill is the fifth of Indridason’s crime novels to be translated into English. Like the others, for which Indridason has established for himself an international reputation, Arctic Chill is a traditional police procedural, albeit one that is dominated by the bleak Icelandic landscape and the interminable winter nights. In this sense, there is nothing particularly radical or innovative in Indridason’s writing – even his emotionally dysfunctional and workaholic detective, Erlendur, with his broken marriage, delinquent, damaged children and heavy smoking is firmly in the tradition of the modern, North European detective. Compared with Fossum, Indridason’s novels are less dark and psychological; compared with Nesbo’s, they are less harrowing and nihilistic. They are simply well-written detective stories with plots that are not over-complicated. Addictive stuff.

But Indridason’s novels, and Arctic Chill is no exception in this respect, are embedded within the Icelandic landscape and Icelandic Society. In Arctic Chill a young boy of Thai extraction is found murdered and Indridason uses this to explore racism, anti-immigration and the tensions of a multi-cultural society. But these are the issues that are explored through the novel, not the reason for the crime itself, which turns out to be rather mundane and something of an anti-climax. And that is, perhaps, Indridason’s point – that violence is so often mundane, even boring. Indridason deserves praise for this – it would have been much easier to have turned this into a novel about hate crime. Instead Indridason tells a story of the banality of evil and he still manages to get across his social commentary on the corrosive nature of xenophobia.

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