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By Arnaldur Indridason

If the holiday season has left you in a “Bah, humbug!” mood, pull up an armchair with a copy of Icelandic mystery writer Indridason’s novel, Voices (2003).

In the middle of the Christmas holiday tourist season, a Reykjavik hotel employee discovers the hotel’s Santa Claus, dead in his closet of a room with his pants around his ankles. Curmudgeonly, depressive Detective Erlander is called in to find out who and why “Santa,” a well-known boy soprano in his youth, was murdered.

Few staff members mourn the man’s passing, despite the fact that he was the hotel’s doorman and December Santa for decades and lived in a basement room. The management had laid him off. His co-workers claimed to know very little about him.

Erlander, estranged from family, welcomes the distraction from the holiday. The hotel management wants the problem to go away quickly with the least amount of poking into hotel operations as possible.

While his colleagues Elinborg and Sigurdur Oli hurry to finish their own holiday preparations, Erlander continues his own slow and thorough exploration, which takes him into investigating the world of boys choirs and boy sopranos, greedy record collectors and an unloving family’s history.

In the meantime, his ever difficult daughter is nagging him to connect with his ex-wife, and a spark of romance flares with a fellow member of the police forensic team.

Like the classic detectives of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, Erlendur is haunted by his own past. Born just after World War II, he is a reluctant citizen of contemporary Iceland. He is haunted by his dead brother who disappeared in a blizzard when he was eight-years-old; his drug-addicted daughter and aloof son, whom he rarely saw during their growing up years; and his bitter wife who can’t get past blaming him for ending their marriage.

About the Author: Arnaldur Indridason (1961 – )

Indridason worked as a journalist, film critic and freelance writer before turning to novels. The first two books of his Inspector Irelundur series — Sons of Dust and Silent Kill — have not yet been translated into English. The series has become so popular that the Indridason’s books include seven of the 10 most popular titles borrowed from the Reykjavik City Library.

In an interview by Jake Kerridge for The Telegraph, Indridason said, “My method is not to know what’s taken place. The themes of my story I will know, but not who the characters are. The greatest fun when I’m working on the story is to look at what I’m writing and say ‘What? What? Is this what happens?’ And then the reader will enjoy it too.  This is my advice [to aspiring mystery writers]: surprise yourself!”

His work has won multiple awards including,

  • The Glass Key award, a literary prize for the best Nordic crime novel, in 2002 and 2003
  • The Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger Award in 2005 for Silence of the Grave
  • The RBA International Prize for Crime Writing in 2013 for Shadow Alley. This Spanish literary prize is said to be the world’s most lucrative crime fiction prize of €125,000.

The books of the Inspector Irlendur series in order are:

  • Jar City (2000).The murder of an old man in his basement apartment in Reykjavik, appears to be a crime without leads. Then Inspector Erlundur finds a photograph of a four-year-old girl’s gravestone tapped to the bottom of a drawer.
  • Silence of the Grave (2001). The accidental discovery of a partially buried skeleton in a developing neighborhood sets Erlunder and his team sifting through the distant past to find out what happened for a skeleton to come to buried in that spot.
  • The Draining Lake (2004). An earthquake causes a sudden drop in the level of an Icelandic lake revealing a skeleton weight down by a radio device with Russian inscriptions. Erlunder and and his team members Elinborg and Sigurdur Oli find themselves invetigating Cold War era events and following a cold trail leading to an era of left-wing student protests.
  • Arctic Chill (2005). When a young, dark-skinned boy is found frozen in a pool of his own blood in a garden, the Reykjavik police are called in. As Erlunder and his team investigate, they find simmering tensions under Iceland’s outwardly liberal and multicultural society. Memories and imaginings of his own brother freezing in a snowstorm rise to the surface for Erlunder.
  • Hypothermia (2007). When Inspector Erlunder is called in to do a routine investigation of the apparent suicide of a woman grieving the death of his mother, he discovers she had been seeing a psychic. The ghosts of his own past keep resurfacing as he investigates — two cold cases of a missing young man and woman from earlier in his career, the dead marriage his drug-addicted daughter is trying to salvage and the loss of his own eight-year-old brother in a blizzard.
  • Outrage (2008). Erlunder takes a short leave of absence, leaving detective Elinborg in charge. A case lands on her desk that qucikly puts her into a violent, volatile situations and an investigation of a twisted tale of double lives pointing to a serial rapist.
  • Black Skies (2009). Erlunder’s colleague Sigurdur Oli is out of sync with work, life and his wife despite an economic boom in the country. When a favor to a friend goes wrong and a woman dies while he watches, Oli soon has a murder to solve.
  • Strange Shores (2010). Erlundur returns to his childhood home and the scene of tragic memories of the night that his younger brother Beggi was lost in a blizzard that nearly killed Erlundur and his father. Camping out in the shell of his family’s house, he has time to ponder the mysterious disappearance of Matthildur on a hike to visit her mother. Fair weather turned foul trapping Matthildur as well as a troop of British soldiers in a snow storm.
  • Reykjavik Nights (2012, but not available to American audiences until 2015). This is a prequel to the series covering Erlundur’s time as a young policeman in the 1970s.


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