Fiction – paperback; Vintage; 304 pages; 2006. Translated from the Icelandic by Bernard Scudder.
Erlunder, the morose but endearing detective first introduced to English-language readers in Tainted Blood, is hard at work solving yet another Reykjavík murder mystery.
This time a body has been found in a shallow grave in an area that once housed British and American military barracks during the Second World War. It is believed that the body could have laid there for decades. But is it male or female, and was it simply a case of someone going missing in the snow or is there a more sinister reason for the body laying where it has been found?
This is an intense, sparsely written crime thriller composed of two intertwined narratives: in the present, Erlunder’s painstaking investigation interspersed with a painful personal situation in which his pregnant drug-addicted daughter lies in a coma; and in the past, a tragic story about a woman, subject to appalling domestic violence, whom may or may not be the victim in the grave.
The two stories are carefully constructed and inter cut with one another to build up a succession of clues which, for this reader anyway, were too glaringly obvious to create any real heart-hammering tension. I guessed the ending long before it was revealed.
That said, it’s a well written, entirely believable, if somewhat harrowing book, and it provides enough twists and turns not to be wholly predictable. And, as ever, Arnaldur Indriðason provides an intriguing glimpse of Iceland’s culture and history, which gives this book enough atmosphere to make up for any shortfall in my own expectations (I had, remember, fallen head over heels with Tainted Blood when I read it earlier this year and had expected to feel similarly infatuated with Silence of the Grave, alas it was not to be so...).
The author won the CWA Gold Dagger for this book in 2005.