STRANGE SHORES by Arnaldur Indridason

Book Quote:

“When a loved one went missing time changed nothing.”

Book Review:

Review by Friederike Knabe  (FEB 23, 2014)

Arnaldur Indridason’s most recent novel available in English, Strange Shores, is the most thoughtful, subtle and sympathetic portrait of Reykjavik Police Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson I have read. The author shines an intimate searching light on the seasoned, somewhat curmudgeon, Erlendur, and a tragedy in his past that “convinced [him] there and then that he would never be a happy man.” On vacation in the village of his childhood, situated in a remote part of the eastern region of Iceland, Erlendur cannot escape the long lost or suppressed memories of two disappearances that of his young brother in one of the sudden vicious storms and of a young woman in another.

Erlendur’s father was a sheep farmer until tragedy made the family move away to the capital Reykjavik. Their old farmhouse stands in ruin and, ever so often in recent years, Erlendur has returned, camping out among the remnants of the house and wandering into the nearby mountain range, reliving that tragic day. It is like a pilgrimage for him, a journey that he feels compelled to take, still searching for clues or signs.

“Admittedly, [time] dulled the pain, but by the same token the loss became a lifelong companion for those who survived, making the grief keener and deeper in a way he couldn’t explain.”

Pain for Erlendur is fused with survivor guilt for his lost younger brother. For related and different reasons the disappearance of the young woman Matthildur has been occupying the police inspector’s mind for many years. Rumours kept alive among the locals as to whether she really was lost in the storm or some other fate had befallen her. A chance encounter with an old local hunter rekindles Erlendur’s passion to solve long lost mysterious disappearances. But, can there any hope to find clues, if not answers, after so many years?

The questions surrounding the two disappearances, separate and nonetheless linked in the mind of Erlendur, stand at the centre of Arnaldur’s captivating narrative. The author shows his usual insight into his protagonist’s motivations, yet, here he goes deeper into discovering the hidden facts that surrounded the disappearance of Matthildur. Surviving family members are reluctant to open up old wounds. By following the inspector’s various leads, we gain considerable insight into one of these remote communities, the complicated intimate relationships and strongly held ties to the past. Secrets that have been hidden can be pried open only if handled with great care and sensitivity. Erlendur himself experiences a wide range of emotions, provoked not only by the recurring memories from the past, but also made palpable through vivid dreams, nightmares possibly, that capture the depth of pain and loss and the wish to search for evidence that could heal the wounds. Reliving his own past gives him the determination, obstinacy to some, to find the evidence that lay hidden from sight regarding the young woman’s disappearance.

Arnaldur’s understanding and empathy with the witnesses of the past events, their personalities and individual behaviour is exquisitely rendered. His understated evocation of the landscape reflects its stark beauty as well as its many hidden dangers. I found this to be one of his most engaging books yet, at least of those that I have read.

AMAZON READER RATING: from 33 readers
PUBLISHER: Harvill Secker (September 16, 2013)
REVIEWER: Friederike Knabe
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Wikipedia page on Arnaldur Indridason
EXTRAS: Reading Guide and Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read our review of:


Reykjavik Police Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson series:

Stand-alone thrillers:

February 22, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Iceland, Sleuths Series

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