on 9 April 2013
This was the 3rd book I have read in the Reykjavik Murder Mystery series. I have enjoyed them all, even though the stories run along similar lines. It is interesting to learn a little about the country as well as having a mystery to solve.
An investigation is launched into the discovery of a skeleton weighed down by spying equipment in a lake that is ebbing away. Was the person a suicide case or were they a spy who was murdered?
Heading the investigation is detective Erlendur. As is usually the case these days he is a policeman with a troubled past & a dysfunctional family who have rejected him but are still around in his life. He has a complicated relationship to deal with and an ex-police woman who may know of some vital clues but is dying.
The story is set in Iceland & if, like me, you know little of the country other than fjords & volcanoes then this will be a bit of an eye opener. It is also something of a culture shock as the main characters are fairly cold and non-commital and in British terms could be seen as lacking in emotion at first. However this slowly changes perspective as the underlying feelings slowly come out as the story progresses and though unlikely to often explode into emotional outbursts they are all very human and feel deeply but show it in a very different and more measured way.
Set inside the investigation & brief moments of Erlendur's personal life are also flashbacks to an unnamed characters college days spent in Leipzig during the early days of the cold war and of course the link between the case and this become slowly clearer.
This takes a little getting into but once you get used to the style then it soon begins to grip and an enjoyable and well written plot soon flies by. The insight into a seldom seen world is enjoyable and once you get to grips with them the characters are interesting if not always likeable.
A different direction for the crime story fan who is looking for something different and a series I shall look into the back catalogue of. Well worth a read.
This is number four in a series and it can be hard to come in at this point not having read the previous ones. My biggest issue was the names; they're all too similar (like in an English novel if you called all the main female characters Jean, Jane and Joan!). As the names were also Icelandic, and therefore out of my usual frame of reference for gender, I found it hard to work out who was male and who female and who was who in general. I had to keep referring back to the pages where they were (very casually) introduced to keep track. There are cliches, as other reviewers have mentioned; the detective is simultaneously useless with women and strangely attractive to them. Very attractive people are mysteriously single. The central story is well written, the settings are clear to visualise (although I have been to Iceland and had a bit of a head start there!), and the dialogue is believable, given that it's been translated.
A previous reviewer has summed up the plot really well, so I've lifted the next bit from his review:
"The action moves between modern Iceland and 1950s Leipzig where students from Iceland and the Eastern Bloc countries who have shown sufficient zeal for the party line (or may simply be useful to it in the future)are given sponsored university places. Once there, however, some of them realise that Eastern Germany is not the socialist paradise they've been led to believe. In the meantime, in modern day Iceland a body has been discovered in a draining lake."
I would recommend this book for fans of the series and for thriller/murder mystery fans in general, but it might be worth starting from the beginning and building up a relationship with the central characters first.
Add Iceland to the list of settings for a detective novels, as Arnaldur Indridason is translated into English. It was well worth doing too, as the result is a well told story which combines the Cold War and the present.
Although the pace which was a little slow at times, there was always the sense that you needed to read on, partly because of the original tale and partly because of the characters, who were all well drawn. The Icelandic names did take a bit of getting used to though, so that might have made the pace fell slow.
I would have given this 5 stars but for the relentlessly downbeat fell of the book, which did, at times, get a little wearisome. Having not read any of his other books, I am not sure whether that is a feature of the author's work, or indeed the Icelandic condition, but I will enjoy finding out when I next come across his books.
After reading all the Steig Larsson books, I have really enjoyed reading other books set in Norther Europe. 'The Draining Lake' is set in Iceland, about as far north as you can get. I loved this book, and really couldn't put it down until I'd finished it. It's a fantastic story, partly set in Berlin during the post war period, and partly in Iceland in the present. It is crime fiction, but the Cold War setting gives it a whole new twist, and sets it apart from the run of the mill murder story.
Detective Erlendur is a fascinating, very human character with his own problems that beset him and drag him down. He is a little like Wallender in that respect, but although his situation often seems bleak, I didn't find this book depressing. There are some very sad moments in the book, and the Icelandic landscape is used to emphasise this, but there are also touches of humour that lift the plot. I enoyed this book so much, that I have scince read 'Jar City' which was equally good, and is the first book in the series, and have ordered the next one as well.
on 16 May 2009
I generally do not like intertwined story lines and flash-backs, and I hate the phrase 'unputdownable'.
'The Draining Lake' has two intertwined story lines and I thought it, erm, unputdownable. The atmosphere, the characters, the dialogues, the story itself... it is a long time ago that I was so fascinated by a book, and I promptly ordered all the other available books by Andridason. In the beginning, the only problem was to get used to those Icelandic names, and remember who is who. But now I won't forget them anymore!
I thought this was a very engrossing and enjoyable book. It is the first of Indridasson's I have read, and I will be looking out for others by him.
The plot is very adequately summarised in the publisher's blurb on this page and I won't give away more. Indridasson writes very well in a low-key style which I liked very much, and the characters are very well-drawn. The translation is excellent. There is no overblown prose or breathless descriptions of implausibly violent events, but the atmosphere and sense of place, both in present-day Iceland and in 1950s East Germany is exceptionally well evoked and truly engrossing - I really enjoyed getting a feel for Iceland in particular. The plot is (thank heavens) both comprehensible and believable and there is mystery and plenty of genuine tension in spite of a total (and to me welcome) absence of sex scenes, explosions and car chases.
In short, this is an intelligent, thoughtful and humane book which is also a really gripping read. Highly recommended.
A skeleton is discovered in the bed of a lake that is drying out after an earthquake has caused some seismic disruption. The body is accompanied by old Russian recording equipment; clearly the person did not die recently or have a natural death. Many policemen would not be interested in solving such an old crime, but Inspector Erlunder's boss has no hesitation in calling him back early from holiday to investigate. (Erlunder is the kind of person who has a holiday on his own in his flat and begins to miss work on about the second day.)
Erlunder and his team soon run out of leads as they chase up all the people reported missing in Iceland 40 or 50 years ago, but find no link to the victim in the lake. Erlunder can't let go, however, and visits a succession of embassies in a hilariously droll series of interviews with minor and major diplomats to try to make sense of the discovery. At the same time, one of the missing-persons cases intrigues him: a salesman called Leopold failed to return home to his lover one day, leaving his car outside a station. Erlunder is intrigued by the woman and the effect on her subsequent life of Leopold's disappearance, perhaps reminding him of his own lost brother or his daughter, the wayward Eva Lind. He follows Leopold's tracks to the farm where he was supposed to pay the last call before he disappeared, and follows the trail of the missing car, a Ford Falcon.
The interplay between the detectives is drolly portrayed, with Sigurdur Oli as smug and rigid as ever - until his own personal happiness is threatened - and Elinborg is obsessed with her cookery book which is being published and publicised in parallel with the investigation. Erlunder himself becomes momentarily sociable, attending a party in honour of the author, almost relating to his son, Sindri, who seems by far the best adjusted of Erlunder's family, and tentatively proceeding with his relationship with Valgerdur, whom we met in Indridason's previous book, VOICES.
But the special beauty of the book, and the reason for its haunting quality, is the story of Tamas, Ilona and the group of students who study together in Leipzig in the 1950s. They are young, idealistic communists who have been selected by the party for further education - the children of workers and farmers who are the vanguard of the new post-war Soviet utopia. Their story is told by one of the group in flashback, as Erlunder's investigation comes inexorably closer. The euphoria of youthful dreams of changing the world for the better, the gradual but total crushing of belief, and the exposure of the corruption and cruelty at the heart of the system are brilliantly told. As the detectives discover, East Germany pursued almost total surveillance of its citizens: the Stasi had 97,000 employees who spied on the populace with the help of more than 100,000 active but unofficial collaborators; 1,000,000 people provided the police with occasional information; reports were complied on 6,000,000 people; and one department of the Stasi had the sole function of watching over other security police members. THE DRAINING LAKE is a satisfying mystery novel by a superb author who has no need of a high body count or special effects to create an exciting and compelling story, but above all it is a moving account of the human cost of these horrifying statistics.
on 12 January 2011
This is a crime/political thriller of the highest order. It effortlessly combines two narratives, one set in present-day Iceland, the other in East Germany in the 1950s. This is a skillful piece of work, and one that only could have been set in Iceland due to the geological anomaly in the title. The detective,Erlandur, is a memorable creation, doggedly persuing an old missing persons case which is reopened when a skeleton, tied to a cold war Russian listening device is revealed at the bottom of an unpronouncable lake. Indridason gives us fascnating glimpses into Icelandic culture and mindset, providing humour, bleakness, tragedy and an interesting insight into Cold War student politics at a post war East German university. One is left thinking about the nature of socialism, the nature of loneliness, and the nature of friendship and trust. One last thing, dont ring your partner at the supermarket checkout to get any extra items, just go without.
on 14 March 2011
This is my 5th book from Arnaldur, the 4th in the Erlendur series. As usual it is perfect, and I remain amazed by his skill at conveying all this atmosphere and story with such an economy of words. The plot itself, once again, is fairly basic if you boil it down to its skeleton, but this author remains exceptional in how he constructs it and how he wraps it while keeping you enthralled. It is masterful.
On the other hand, I can understand some reviewers who do not like this author or this book - if you are looking for a complex plot with a huge cast of characters and lots of action, this is not for you. Like his previous books, it is a fairly simple story told from some original angle, in the very "exotic" setting of Iceland (although this one actually largely takes place in the past East Germany).
Anyway, I love it, I am looking forward to reading the next two installments in this series, and I am a huge fan of this author.