Voices by Arnaldur Indriđason

How timely! It is Christmas and here is a book set at Christmas. It is dark and dreary here, just the way Erlendur likes it. I myself don’t know how people north of the Red River stand long, cold, lonely winters. Erlendur is born to it; he may even take a step further. But even he cannot bear to spend the days up to Christmas in his own apartment, even if the hotel room is cold. He has this opportunity because someone has murdered the doorman/Santa Claus in a particularly unseasonal manner.

As I read more of the books from this series, more this author remind me of Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer. The solution to contemporary crimes lies in old sins, in old betrayals. Erlendur has the imagination and the understanding to know this. As Faulkner, a man who knew a thing about it, said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

The setting, a hotel, is a rich source for characters. For another quote, a character in Grand Hotel remarks, “People come and go. Nothing ever happens.” (Note to self: Watch the DVD you’ve had for a year. It’s hard for me to watch movies when there are so many books to read.) In this case, the Reykjavik hotel is filled with Christmas tourists. The hotel manager wants to keep the murder under wraps, which makes it difficult for Erlendur and his detectives to conduct their investigator. It does make it possible for Erlendur to meet a fetching forensic lady DNA swabber. Their “date” is so well-written; Erlendur is like so many of us older folks – we have so much baggage that is difficult to unpack. How does someone let down the defenses? Not Erlendur who prefers to drink Chartreuse while reading about people lost in snowstorms. Do they have Match.com in Iceland?

Erlendur’s investigation reveals a picture of the dead man that, as is usual with this deeply disturbing writer, goes far beneath the surface to create a story of suffering and loss uncovered by the police investigation. And the murdered man has more in common with Erlendur than is readily apparent. If the relationship between siblings was a theme of Silence of the Grave, the theme in this book shifts to parent and child. We learn more and more about Erlendur with each book in the series.

The book is essentially about the abuses and their effects on childhood: the long-term damage suffered as a result of parental expectations and the recollections that distort and mar adult life. Indridason is particularly powerful on the connections of a case with the investigator’s memories.

Indridason reaches profound psychological depths. Voices is a brutal, soulful noir from Nordic shores.


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