Hypothermia is the latest of Arnaldur Indridason’s Erlendur crime novels to be translated into English. Erlendur is called to wrap up the case of a young academic who has committed suicide at her holiday cottage by the lake. But what appears to be a clear case of suicide, Erlendur begins to suspect there is more to it. At the same time he becomes determined to solve a 30-year old case of a missing teenager before the father of the vanished student dies.
It could be argued that much of what happens is derivative – the investigation of one case helps solve the second; the answer to the seemingly inexplicable suicide lies in the past, relating to a single traumatic childhood event; the maverick Erlendur having to investigate unofficially (ie in his own time); Erlendur’s own dysfunctional personal life intruding from time to time; and so on – but this is all of the genre, of course. There are also some inconsistencies in the characterisation. On the one hand, all of the suicide’s acquaintances are surprised by her taking her own life – she wasn’t the sort, they all claim. Yet at the same time they describe an individual who was under severe mental strain, suffering from depression and hallucinations, and with an unhealthy death obsession.
Nevertheless, the pacing and plotting of the novel suggest an increasing mastery of the genre from Indridason that make this an extremely enjoyable read and the inconsistencies can be easily forgiven. It is appropriately titled as coldness permeates the whole of the novel as a recurring motif. It is in the weather, in the landscape, in the manner of death of the victims and also in the coldness of the culprit’s heart, for this is an emotionally brutal crime, rather than a physically brutal one. A good, swift read.