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The best crime writer working today?
on 23 November 2009
Arnaldur Indridasson has for some time been among the cream of the explosion of crime and mystery writing currently emanating from the Nordic countries; A writer who eschews melodrama, keeps his cast of characters concise and tightly drawn and suffuses all of his writing with a slightly doleful understatement. His main character, Erlandur, superficially ticks all the boxes for the identikit modern fictional detective; middle-aged (check), unhappy family life (check), bit of a loner (check), dogged and brilliant (check) - in this respect for Erlandur read Wallander, Rebus, Banks etc. What differentiates Indridasson are the depth of his psychological insight and his willingness to stretch the conventional form into areas where lesser writers would not dare to go, working without the safety net of big plot, big action or supporting cast of big characters, but keeping the reader glued to the personalities involved and to the slow revealing of a complex and ultimately tragic story. This latest instalment has Erdlandur working on his own to resolve events that may or may not be crimes, but whose resolution will in any event have little direct impact on anyone alive. That resolution is as much about recovering and honouring the memory of the lost, as it is about exposing the actions of the guilty. Indridasson is by nature a sparse writer, there is little embellishment and the "octane level" is kept rather low - but his mastery of pace and narrative fluency are simply unrivalled (contrast him with the much hyped, highly enjoyable but infinitely more frenetic and long-winded Stieg Larsson). I've long felt that Indridasson is among the very best crime writers working in Europe; for me Hypothermia elevates him onto a different literary level. Highly recommended