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Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Draining Lake


I’m loving how so many of the people I’m reading about are reading and taking some time off. Erlender, another of my favorite police officers, is taking some time off from work when his reading is interrupted by a phone call that will call him back to duty in Arnaldur Indriðason's The Draining Lake.
By page eight I was howling with laughter with a lovely description of Iceland: ‘Sigurdur Óli was standing by the skeleton when Erlendur and Elínborg arrived at the lake. A forensics team was on the way. The officers from Hafnarfjördur were fiddling around with yellow plastic tape to cordon off the area, but had discovered they had nothing to attach it to. Sigurdur Óli watched their efforts and thought he could understand why village-idiot jokes were always set in Hafnarfjördur.’
I’m glad for some good dry Icelandic humor in otherwise bleak surroundings and a brooding Icelandic detective reading “a series of accounts of people who had got lost and disappeared in the wilds of Iceland.” Each of the lives of our three detectives is being delved into, revealed to us. We know them, have some inklings of their lives beyond work, but in this fourth in the series we are being let in even further.
Indriðason is using The Draining Lake to educate us about Iceland during the Cold War as this mystery unfolds. It may seem insignificant, but just as Iceland was a player in WWII, it was also a player in the Cold War. A German Ambassador relates this to Erlendur: “I know you’ll find it amusingly absurd,” she said, ‘but in terms of the diplomatic service, Iceland is the back end of gthe world. The weather’s dreadful. The incessant storms, the darkness and cold. There is hardly a worse punishment imaginable than to be post people here.” Of course Erlendur has to ask her when he leaves, ‘”Why were sent to this dreadful country?” I love to see Erlendur showing this spunk and patriotism. Spying does go on in the Cold war and Iceland is in play as we will learn. Returning Icelandic students from East German universities provide this intrigue that reveals itself when the lake begins to drain because of natural disaster or was it divine so as to let them ‘take a closer look.’ The main international airport on Iceland, Keflavik, was the American military base before it was turned over to Iceland. And who can forget the classic chess match between Fischer and Spassky in 1972? Although our murder takes place in the early 60’s, the tension can’t be neglected and consider the importance of the chess match which helped put Iceland on the map and into the minds of the people of the world.
Elínborg, the female detective of the trio, wrote a cookbook that received rave reviews. She and the youngest member of the detective team are having a BBQ at which Erlendur comes without his female acquaintance, everyone is eager to meet. At this point, I wish Indriðason had been more detailed about the cooking process just as Martin Walker is in the Bruno series. Icelandic food is very, very good and learning more about it, especially from an insider and a member of Erlendur’s team would enhance the storyline as it does The Bruno series.
So much has advanced in this book for all three of our detectives. It is rich in humanity as we watch them grow and share more of themselves to us.

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