Wednesday, November 22

Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indridason

Review by Theodore Feit 

This novel is the second in the Detective Inspector Erlendur series, and was the winner of the CWA Golden Dagger Award, with good reason.  It has arrived in the United States to great critical acclaim, also with good reason.  This review is no exception.


The mystery opens with the discovery of a bone—a partial rib.  Further investigation results in the discovery of a buried skeleton.  Erlendur enlists the aid of an archeological team to uncover it, which painstakingly takes most of the rest of the novel.   Meanwhile the inspector and his team follow up clues despite the fact that the skeleton appeared to have been buried about 70 years before.


This is a grim tale of two dysfunctional families.  We know from the debut novel that Erlendur has his problems, having walked out on his wife 20 years before, and suffers poor relations with his daughter and son.  His daughter is an addict and irresponsible, and early in this book phones her father for help.  After a frantic search he finds her, seven months pregnant, lying in a pool of blood in the street and in a coma.   She remains in a coma after surgery, and in several visits to her hospital room, we learn some of the factors in Erlendur's past which have contributed to his personality.


The other family is the heart of this mystery.  The father is an abuser, the mother long suffering from physical and mental torture; there are two sons and a crippled daughter.   They live in a hillside chalet rented from a man whose fiancée disappeared many years before.  Is it her skeleton?  Or is it someone else?


Indridason has followed up a most excellent first novel with one of equal quality.  It is a gripping tale from start to finish.  As in the initial novel in the series, the translator has done a more than workmanlike job.


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