Arnaldur Indriðason, Author, Book review, Books in translation, crime/thriller, Fiction, Iceland, Publisher, Setting, Vintage

‘Tainted Blood’ by Arnaldur Indriðason


Fiction – paperback; Vintage; 224  pages; 2005. Translated from the Icelandic by Bernard Scudder.

I could probably review this book in one word — WOW! — but that wouldn’t be fair, would it? I could also review it in three words — I LOVED IT! — but that isn’t fair either.

So let me say this: Arnaldur Indriðason’s Tainted Blood is a taut, well-executed police procedural, set in grey, rainy Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. It grips from the first page, each sentence beautifully written, propelling the story forward without wasting one word.

The writing is sparse and elegant, but very visual. You can smell, feel, hear and SEE everything that Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson goes through as he investigates the murder of an old man with a sordid past.

The plot is calculating and well constructed, if a little predictable towards the end. But the beauty of this novel is the layering effect, of stories within stories, sad and melancholy as they may be. The parallel tale of Erlendur’s complicated relationship with his drug-addicted older daughter only serves to add a rich depth to an already riveting crime thriller.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, turning the pages quicker than my eyes could hungrily devour them. I suspect it would make an excellent film, and I’d be surprised if the film rights haven’t already been snapped up.

Tainted Blood won the Nordic Crime Novel Award and received much international acclaim — and with good reason. Now I am eager to read the follow up to this novel, Silence of the Grave, which has reaped similar plaudits.

So, if you’re looking for a clever crime thriller set in an atmospheric location with interesting and complicated characters, a little bit of science, a lot of detective work and some unexpected twists and turns thrown in, then this book is hard to beat.

There. That was better than a one-word review, wasn’t it?

7 thoughts on “‘Tainted Blood’ by Arnaldur Indriðason”

  1. Am I the only person who read this review and started hearing “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell on the old mental jukebox? More specifically, I can hear March Almond singing “tainted blood, oh oh, tainted blood…” and then it segues into the full 12″ mix with “where did our love go.”
    Anyone? Oh well.
    I have *got* to start getting more sleep.


  2. Colin, my caffine hadn’t kicked in yet when I read your comments. I will recommend this book to my crime-loving friends. If I find it, I will read it.


  3. I am nearly finished ‘Silence of the Grave’, which is so so much better than this, in my opinion. It is incredibly gripping and very very good.


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