Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Voices by Arnaldur Indridason

review by Maryom

"It is a few days before Christmas and a Reykjavik doorman and occasional Santa Claus, Gudlauger, has been found stabbed to death in his hotel room in a sexually compromising position. It soon becomes apparent that both staff and guests have something to hide, but it is the dead man who has the most shocking secret.

Detective Erlendur soon discovers that the placidly affluent appearance of the hotel covers a multitude of sins."

 Arnaldur Indridason is one of those highly acclaimed writers of Nordic Noir that I haven't really seemed to catch up on, so when this came up in a selection of 'Christmassy' reads at my Waterstones book club I voted for it - and having read it, I can see why he's earned his reputation.

Obviously finding the murderer takes centre stage but what I loved was that it was about 'more' than just crime. The discovering of the victim's past, of how he was pushed into a singing career by his ambitious father, ties in with other stories of less than ideal childhoods, focussing on the realtionships between children and parents. While Gudlauger was being singled out for special attention by his father, and striving to do his best to live up to his expectations, his sister was being relegated to 'second best', with little affection or notice going her way.
Meanwhile Erlendur's colleague, Elinborg, is awaiting the result of a case of child abuse. A father is suspected of causing severe injuries to his son, not once but on several occasions. Elinborg is not convinced by his pleas of innocence, but the case takes a very strange turn.
The case also brings back memories for Detective Erlendur; of the death of his younger brother in a heavy blizzard, and of the abandonment of his own children. He's carried the guilt of the first with him since then, but is only just, since being re-united with his now-adult children, beginning to feel how he might have failed them too. All these separate threads weave together to add an extra dimension to a whodunnit murder mystery involving nerdy record collectors and a family feud.
I'm not sure whether I'd say it was very 'Christmassy' in feel - it's set in the run-up to the holidays, and there's certainly a lot of mentions of Icelandic-jumper-wearing tourists celebrating in the hotel, and while his colleagues are wanting to be at home and preparing food and presents, Erlendur is not looking forward to a solitary Christmas, but at the same time, there's a feeling that life, and crime, goes on regardless of season.

Voices is Book 3 of the Reykjavik Murder Mysteries series, but I had no difficulty jumping in at this point. The only aspect that threw me at first was a slight confusion over names; Sigurdar Oli, I thought was female, Elinborg, male, and I never got the hang of Marion Briem - but I think that might have been deliberate on behalf of the author.

This is only the second Araldur Indridason novel that I've read, but I definitely I'll put him on 'read more of' list.

 Translated from the Icelandic by Bernard Scudder

Winner of the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger
Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Vintage
Genre - Adult crime fiction, Nordic Noir,

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