The Icelandic James Patterson

Arnaldur Indriðason, the “James Patterson of Iceland” has only recently become known to North American mystery readers. He is a two-time winner of the Glass Key award, recognizing the best Nordic crime writing, in 2002 and 2003. In 2005, he was the recipient of the Crime Writer’s Association Gold Dagger award for his novel Silence of the Grave. His novel Tainted Blood was made into a movie called “Jar City” which was Iceland’s official submission to the Oscars in 2008.

His stories follow the cases of Detective Erlendur, a veteran of the Reykjavik police force. While following leads, he is also trying to manage his life which seems to be in constant threat of falling apart around him. He has two grown children, both of whom have drug and alcohol problems and are a constant source of worry and trouble. He has an ex-wife who doesn’t seem to want to have anything to do with him, and he is haunted by the death of his brother in a blizzard when Erlendur was just a child. Erlendur blames himself for the tragic loss and uses this guilt to fuel his passion for missing person cases. Erlendur is often teamed up with a female detective, Elinborg, who provides much needed comic relief as a moonlighting cookbook writer. A fearless rookie detective with secrets of his own, Sigurdur Óli, rounds out the trio of crime solvers.

Many of Arnaldur’s stories are bleak and may not necessarily have a happy Hollywood ending, but his character sketches and insight into human weakness and foibles make him worth reading, especially by those who enjoyed Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and sequels. Also, his poetic descriptions of nature and detailed portrayals of places around Iceland had me reaching for an atlas and doing Google Image searches several times throughout.

Arnaldur is so popular in Iceland that supposedly of the 10 most borrowed titles from the Reykjavik Public Library in 2004, seven of them were by Arnaldur.

As of 2010 he has written 10 books using the same characters, but not all of them have been translated into English. Winnipeg Public Library has 8 of his titles in English and 5 in French.

– Trevor

One response to “The Icelandic James Patterson

  1. I’ve read and enjoyed all of this author’s titles that the library carries and what I find so appealing is the “non-Hollywood” circumstances and endings.

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