Arnaldur Indriðason’s Strange Shores / Iceland Noir

So I’ve finally read Arnaldur Indriðason’s Strange Shores (Harvill Secker), possibly the last novel in the Inspector Erlendur series, in which our favourite Icelandic detective heads back to his abandoned childhood home to face the trauma that has shaped his life – the disappearance of his little brother Bergur in a snowstorm when he was eight years old. While there, Erlendur also starts to dig into another unresolved story: that of Matthildur, a young wife who set off across the frozen fjords one day in 1942 and was never heard of again. The two cases are entwined throughout this absorbing narrative, and cuminate in a powerful and and thoroughly moving ending.

What a fine series this is: while consistently delivering satisfying police procedurals, Indriðason has provided his readers with wonderfully realised investigative figures, and with an insightful portrait of a rapidly changing Iceland (and all the good and bad such transformation entails). He also very effectively explores profound themes such as grief and loss. On re-reading my earlier review of The Draining Lake I found I had written that Indriðason’s sensitive treatment of ‘the missing’ – and of the impact of losing someone without knowing their final fate – lifted the novel above many others in the genre. The same remains true of Strange Shores.

If you’d like to know more about the novel, I recommend heading over to Raven Crime Reads, where you’ll find an excellent review. But if you’ve not yet read all the others in the series, it might be best to do so first…

Those with Erlendur withdrawal symptoms will be glad to know that Indriðason has written a prequel set in 1974 entitled Reykjavikurnaetur (Reykjavik Nights), which was published in Iceland last year. Hopefully it will be translated into English soon. Indriðason’s latest novel is called Skuggasund (Shadow Channel), and won this year’s Spanish RBA crime fiction prize. Many thanks to Quentin Bates, author of the marvellous Gunna crime series, for passing on this cheering information.

And speaking of Arnaldur and Quentin… This week sees a very special event taking place in Reykjavik for the first time – the crime convention ICELAND NOIR – which both writers will be attending, as well as a host of other Icelandic, Scandi and British authors. It looks like it’s going to be an absolutely fantastic few days, and I am deeply, deeply jealous of all who will be there. Please tweet and blog LOTS so we can take part vicariously.

Iceland Noir Poster

19 thoughts on “Arnaldur Indriðason’s Strange Shores / Iceland Noir

  1. Mrs. P – An excellent review, for which thanks. I think I’m in some sort of deep denial though about the end of the series. It’s such a superb series I think. It’ll be interesting to see what that prequel will be like.
    Thanks too for the news about Iceland Noir. I’m sure it’ll be amazing and I shall have to keep up with attendees’ tweets, posts and so on.

    • You’re welcome, Margot. I know what you mean about the deep denial. I think one of the reasons I didn’t read the novel before now was to avoid having to *face the end*. Quentin Bates has read the prequel (in Icelandic) and says it’s really good. A little like Mankell’s Pyramid prequel for Wallander?

      Yes, I’m looking forward to hearing about Iceland Noir as well 🙂

  2. Didn’t know about the prequel, thanks! I love this series and Erlendur is one of my favorite characters. Will read this one next year sometime.

    • You’re welcome, Keishon. I hadn’t heard about it before last night either – Quentin Bates is my go-to contact for Icelandic info, and he kindly filled me in. Hope you like Strange Shores when you read it.

    • Mine too, Chrissie. He’s up there with Mankell for me, the latest in a line of great ‘Scandi’ writers stretching back to Sjowall and Wahloo.

      I was so glad to hear about the prequel. I just hope that the translation is under way already!

  3. It just so happens I am currently reading an earlier Erlendur – the one featuring his sidekick Siggi getting involved in helping out friends who are being blackmailed – it takes place during the same time period as Strange Shores. This series really transcends the genre I think, the writing and characters are so good.Thanks for this review, I read another review which found it a bit bleak and put me off a bit, so this rebalances it.

    • Bit of a coincidence! I agree with you totally about the quality of the characters and the writing, but don’t entirely agree that he transcends the genre – I’d argue that he takes the genre a level higher and pushes its boundaries in new directions :).

      I can’t pretend the novel isn’t bleak in places, but it’s ‘good bleak’, if you know what I mean – bleak with a purpose rather than gratuitously miserable!

      • Actually don’t know what came over me – “transcends the genre”??? That’s really a bit w*nky of me, outbreak of pretentiousness alert!! Off for a lie down and a mindless read of the Daily Mail on-line….that should sort me out… xxxx

      • It’s all good, Blighty. Just remember I’m the woman who used the word ‘trope’ in a review not so long ago… 🙂

  4. Have this book at the top of my TBR pile, but must read a few other books first. Curiously, three books are listed at Wikipedia — admittedly, not a perfect source — on Indridason’s entry, post-Strange Shores as Erlendur novels. Now, Wikipedia can be mistaken. Either way, I’d like to know what these three books are about, whether all are prequels or if they’re not really the famous detective’s stories.
    I’ve read all of Indridason’s Erlendur books, and they are at the top of my favorites. He is one of the authors whose books I’ll buy, as I hate to wait for them to get to the library.
    And Hypothermia is my favorite, with The Silence of the Grave and Outrage coming in at a close second and third. I thought that Hypothermia improved the genre. I also wouldn’t say that it transcended the genre as crime fiction can be so good that it’s also “literary” fiction. And that’s what I think of Hypothermia, an excellent work of crime fiction.
    I can’t wait to read Strange Shores, and wonder what the addition three books concern.

    • Oh interesting, Kathy. I’ll have to ask Quentin about Einvígið, as that’s not one I’ve heard about before. The other two are the prequel set in 1974 (Reykjavíkurnætur), and what I think is a standalone or start of a new series (Skuggasund), but I will double-check the latter as it’s listed under Erlendur as you say.

      Hope very much that you enjoy Strange Shores!

    • Thanks, Quimper Hitty – glad to hear that you liked it. Perhaps one to recommend to our mutual friend G. if he has not already found it himself?

      The Icelandic Writers’ Retreat sounds mouth-wateringly good. Worth becoming a writer for in fact!

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