Strange Shores – Arnaldur Indridason Book Review

 

Iceland

Arnaldur Indridason is one of my favourite crime authors, and when I read novels that form part of a series, I  become quite attached to the characters,  as I did, with Detective Erlendur, in Strange Shores. This is the final book in the Detective Erlendur series, although there is the possibility of Erlender prequels being mooted, across the net, at the moment.

Erlendur,  himself, is a bit of a loner; a somewhat sad character who nevertheless has a keen intellect for solving crime. He hails from a family that has encountered hardship, loss and mental instability, which has been the undercurrent permeating story lines in the series, including Jar City, Hypothermia and Silence of the Grave.

Erlendur has, since he was young, been deeply affected by the disappearance of his only brother, who was lost in a Snowstorm, never to be found. It seems guilt is a driving factor in his inability to emotionally move on from this traumatic event.

Strange Shores wraps up this background story in a surprising way as Erlendur, ostensibly on leave in the East Fjords, becomes interested in the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of a young wife back in WWII, in circumstances similar to that of his young brother, Beggi. The subsequent rumours were, that after Matthildur’s disappearance, she returned to haunt her husband, who then later drowned in a storm. During his leave in the area, of his childhood, Erlendur chats to locals, and discovers that there just might be more to the ghost story than meets the eye.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Iceland – where nature can so quickly turn ugly

This novel is not what one would call, fast-paced, but it does illuminate life in Iceland in the post war period and the public and private difficulties associated with living in a harsh environment, of that era. I found the splashes of history interesting and especially useful in anchoring the story to make it more believable.

Then there is the way the old Icelandic culture contrasts with the modern innovations of industry in contemporary Iceland and this pivots well with the connections between the old and new story lines.  Indridason’s character portraits are well-developed and the ‘old timers’ literally jump out from the pages with their craggy beards and pointed fingers.

One of the few remaining Icelandic sheep farms

In attempting to investigate and perhaps solve the mysterious disappearance of Matthildur, Erlendur comes face to face with his own demons and, in the process, the reader learns a lot about what drives the detective, as a person. This adds an element of psychological depth to the story that I found highly readable, however, this may not be so much the case for first – time readers, of an Indridason novel, as they would not have formed such a strong bond with Erlendur, as a character, as yet.

There are tragic themes in this novel as well, and it does delve into some of these. Society’s loners, recluses, and those suffering with mental illness feature in this novel, with the added issue of  how that may affect the family as a whole. The resilience of the Icelandic folk is self – evident throughout.

Iceland Hekla

Hekla – Volcano Iceland

Traveling through Iceland in the winter of 2008, I remember encountering the occasional abandoned farmstead, some, such as the one below, that Icelandic folk vehemently claimed, is haunted by ghosts. In the barren and unrelenting winter landscape that is Iceland, where nature reigns supreme and man is simply an afterthought, I don’t for one second doubt that the locals find imaginative ways to explain adverse happening such as the ghost in this story. So, it was with this memory and images in my head that I read Strange Shores, a story so Icelandic, with subterranean spiritual and psychological undertones. A fitting end to the Erlendur series.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Good: Visual imagery of the characters and landscapes and how life in Iceland is really living at the very edge of possible human habitation

The Bad: Jacob’s treatment of Ezra and the strange dreams Erlendur experiences

The Ugly: Erlendur’s actions in the graveyard

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Something to Ponder About

Advertisements

About Forestwoodfolkart

Scandinavian culture, literature and traditions are close to my heart, even though I am Australian. I have Scandinavian, Frisian and Prussian/Silesian ancestry and for that reason, I feel a connection with that part of the world. I am an avid Nordic Crime fiction reader, and enjoy photography, writing and a variety of cooking and crafts, and traditional decorative art forms. Politically aware and egalitarian by nature, I have a strong environmental bent.
This entry was posted in Book review, Books, Community, Scandinavian books and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Strange Shores – Arnaldur Indridason Book Review

  1. ledrakenoir says:

    Interesting written.

    Inspiring icelandic views – have always loved visiting Iceland…. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. cocoaupnorth says:

    A well-written review! Your images make me want to visit Iceland:-)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. milliethom says:

    An excellent review. I haven’t read any books in this series, so should probably try the first one sometime. I enjoy books that describe the culture and life of the place in which they’re set. However, Most detective stories I’ve are fast paced ones, so I’m not sure how something slow moving would appeal. Are the other books in the series the same, or were you just referring to this one?
    Your photos are wonderful, Amanda. I’ve never been to Iceland, but I’d dearly love to see the landscape there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is a while since I read Tainted blood also titled Jar City Draining Lake and Hypothermia however, I think this one is a little slower because it does not directly involve a police investigation. There is a different feel to his writing.

      Liked by 1 person

    • And I think you would live Iceland!!

      Liked by 1 person

    • milliethom says:

      I’m sure I would. I just have to convince Nick that he would, too. He likes the sunshine. I’m still trying to persuade him to do a fjords cruise up to the Arctic but he tends to shiver at the thought. 🙂

      Like

    • On Summertime, surely it would not be so bad!! Late witer can be quite beautiful too!! Sounds idyllic to me. There is something so peaceful, hushed and serene in a snowy landscape.

      Liked by 1 person

    • milliethom says:

      Snowy landscapes are incredible, I agree. Nick is partially disabled though, and walks with quite a limp, so we have to be careful sometimes where we choose, especially for walking.

      Like

    • Oh yes, icy footpaths are treacherous although in Rejkjavik the geothermal energy is pumped into the buildings under the footpaths, so theybremain totally clear of ice and snow!! Smart, hey? In Norway, I had a couple of falls on the ice trying to ensure my daughter didn’t slip over. (She didn’t , but I did slip on the ice…ouch!!!!)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful photos. Such poetry and stark beauty.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Susie says:

    Beautiful photographs!

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.