Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indriđason

I am so glad I found this series (via the New York Times). This book won the CWA Gold Dagger Award, an award given annually by the Crime Writers’ Association for the best crime novel of the year. Silence of the Grave is the second installment. I am currently reading the third book in the series, Voices.

Usually, I prefer the lone wolf detective, following in the path of Philip Marlowe. I find that the personal stuff, the angst, the family drama detracts and distracts from the essential puzzle. That is what has turned me off of Sarah Paratsky, Sue Grafton, and Marcia Muller. Helene Tursten’s books are beginning to annoy me; her family is too nice, stable, and sane. Dorothy L. Sayers is, of course, in another category all together. Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple are both single and don’t have family worries to deal with.

Interestingly, it seems that women authors feel the need to include the family drama. Male authors generally create detectives who are loners. I certainly haven’t read every mystery author, but in my experience, that’s the pattern.

Indriđason’s Erlendur is a loner, but he has family problems and personal baggage. That could be a turn-off for me, but Indriđason integrates Erlendur’s personal life so well into the investigations that there is no separation, no break. These books are so well written that everything works together.

Silence of the Grave explores the characters’ troubled past and how it affects their present. I am reminded of the attraction for me of Ross McDonald’s Lew Archer series. Events from the past always come back to haunt the present. Erlendur becomes an even deeper character in this book, and I look forward to his development in the next books. I’ve just order the next three books in the series.

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