Indridason, Arnaldur - 'The Draining Lake' (translated by Bernard Scudder)
THE DRAINING LAKE is the sixth in the Erlendur series of Icelandic police procedurals by Arnaldur Indridason (and the fourth to be translated into English).
Erlendur and his colleagues, Elinborg and Sigurdur Oli investigate after a skeleton with a hole in its skull is found in the "drained lake" of the title. The body has been weighed down by an old USSR radio transmitter, which leads Erlendur to suspect a connection between the murder and eastern bloc spies operating in Iceland during the cold war era. (The US air base at Keflavik was of interest to the Soviet powers). The pace of investigation unfolds slowly, as Erlendur and his team have to negotiate embassies, former spooks and civilians, each with their own motives for keeping the past secret. Interwoven with the police investigation, we are given glimpses of the past of a disenchanted former socialist who studied in Leipzig with a group of idealist young Icelanders in the fifties. It becomes clear to the reader, and then to Erlendur that the murder has its roots in these long ago experiences.
Missing persons, and the haunting effects on those left behind are a recurrent theme, ranging from Erlendur's memories of his brother, who vanished as a child during a snow storm, to the bereaved husband who constantly calls Sigurdur Oli to expiate a misplace sense of guilt for the death of his wife and child in a road traffic accident, to the relatives whom Erlendur interviews from unsolved missing persons cases dating back to the 1970s, in his quest to identify the body in the lake. We get a further insight into Erlendur's shambolic private life, as Erlendur's son, Sindri Snaer, starts to visit him more frequently, and confront him about the past.
THE DRAINING LAKE is written with the usual skilful writing and careful characterisation as previous Indridason books, providing a thoughtful meditation on the influence of the past in additional to the more standard aspects of the police procedural.
Read another review of THE DRAINING LAKE.
Laura Root, England