Posted: October 23, 2013 in Iceland, review

51Y4W4o-IIL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_Elinborg and Sigurdur Oli have been the lead protagonists in the last two books in this series, Outrage and Black Skies, while Erlendur has been on a walking holiday in Eastern Iceland. 

But the introspective Reyjavik detective has been sleeping rough in his parents old ruined farmhouse, wandering through the wilderness and reminiscing about the tragic loss in a storm of his younger brother, Bergur “Beggi”. Erlendur hears about a similar case  in which according to Jakob, now long dead, his wife Matthildur went to hike over to Reydarfjordur in a terrible storm and was never seen again. He begins a private investigation of this 60 year old disappearance and by questioning the Matthildur’s elderly friends and relatives he uncovers a sad story of jealousy, lust, revenge and guilt. The later resonates with his feelings about the loss of Beggi in a similar storm.

It is disappointing when a fine series ends with a fairly weak story, and one that is so depressing. I did find it very difficult to read a tale that features personal loss as such a key element. But frankly the main problem was that although the writing was atmospheric, and had some social commentary about industrial development altering the landscape and the lives of the locals, the narrative was a bit boring, with Erlendur very slowly teasing bits of the story from various elderly grumpy Icelanders.

It seems some old crime series, like old soldiers,  don’t die they simply just fade away. [with apologies to General Douglas MacArthur]

‘But then I start wondering: what about all the others?’


‘The ones left behind.’ 

‘What about them?’ ‘The people I pity are the ones left to cope with the fallout. Who have to endure sadness for the rest of their lives.’ 

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Norman – Thanks as ever for your honest appraisal. It’s sad that this terrific series is ending, full stop. But I’m sorry to hear that the novel itself left you disappointed. I’ll probably read it anyway; hard to resist really when a series is overall so excellent. But still…

  2. Norman Price says:

    Margot-I would be most interested in your opinion. I found it an incredibly depressing book with Erlendur still reliving the loss of Beggi. He still had a son and daughter that what ever he thought probably still needed him.

  3. Blighty says:

    An interesting review. I have always loved old Erlendur ever since the first book, and I enjoyed the recent one which featured Elinborg but I might give this one a miss, and that way I can remain in denial about the series ending..

  4. kathy d. says:

    Gosh, I just ordered this book, but didn’t know it was so tragic. I know it was sad, but to this level, oh, no. There are other books listed under Arnaldur Indridason’s name on Wikipedia after Strange Shores. Wonder what they’re about. They’re listed for the Erlendur series.

  5. Norman Price says:

    Kathy, I hadn’t seen that on Wikipedia, but see from an interview Arnaldur gave to Jake Kerridge in the Telegraph the other books may be prequels? Perhaps like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Ian Rankin he was compelled to bring back his detective after planning to end the series.

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