Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Silence of the Grave
by Arnaldur Indridason
I like a good crime novel because the author has to pay attention to detail, to place, to time, and to the story of its characters, particularly, of course, the main detective. And this book by the Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason fulfills all my criteria for a good mystery.
A skeleton is discovered at a modern day construction site and the entire story unfolds during the time the skeleton is unearthed. This is a time traveler's saga and I love a good trip back in time. In the present, the detectives work on solving a woman's disappearance and on finding out what happened long ago to solve the mystery of the skeleton. The main character, Inspector Erlendur, has personal issues with his drug-addicted daughter that takes place in the present and an unfortunate event that caused the death of his brother in the past.
It was, however, the mystery of the skeleton that captivated me. The story of how and why a person came to be buried without anyone missing him/her is very well told. The period is the Second World War, American soldiers have a camp nearby, a woman is being abused by her husband, and her sons are involved in the drama. As you turn the pages, you get a little piece of the drama and the mystery, day by day, as yet another bone is freed of dirt and exposed. You have to wait until the end, until the entire skeleton is unearthed, to find out who was buried and what happened. I, for one, really enjoyed the original way this book was conceived and executed.
My only problem with the book is the inspector's personal problems with his daughter. I seem to have a low tolerance level for reading about drug addiction and the resulting father – daughter relationship issues.
by Arnaldur Indridason
This book, by the same author, is so far removed from the quality and suspense of Silence of the Grave that I couldn't believe it was written by the same person. Jane lent it to me and, after she read it, she concurred that this is not a good book.
The murder of an Asian child begins a story that attempts to deal with race relations in Iceland. I didn't get much out of that, except to learn something new again. I guess that's why I like to read books. Here I learned that there are many immigrants from South East Asia, living in Iceland. I got a bit of an arctic chill myself, thinking that Iceland must be very, very cold and dark for someone from Bangkok, for example. But that was about all I got from their story. I feel the author missed an opportunity to tell the story of people from Asia moving to Iceland in search of a new and better life.
As far as solving the mystery goes, it made me long for a good old Agatha Christie novel where all the suspects are present in the story from the beginning and you have a chance to guess who may have done it. Not so here, the guilty parties pop up at the end of the book, something that left me very unsatisfied.
I am an experienced mystery reader and this book just didn't cut it for me. To make matters worse, it was not well translated and there is no excuse for sloppy editing in a book by an award-winning author.