Racial tension and immigration loom large in Indridason's Icelandic thriller. The intrepid and cerebral Erlendur Sveinsson returns with his crack, if frustrating detectives Sigurdur Oli and Elinborg, this time to investigate the shocking murder of a ten-year-old immigrant boy, Elias, who was brutally stabbed and left to die on the street. Indridason's work always carries the fascinating combination of Icelandic culture and deliberative police protocol, a mix of crime and the personal details that make Erlendur such a compelling protagonist.
In Arctic Chill, even while religiously attending to his investigations, Erlendur frequently ruminates of his personal life, a new relationship in his maturity, a drug-addicted daughter and the recurring memories of a tragic childhood accident that took the life of Erlendur's younger brother. Perhaps it is Elias's brutal death that prompts these memories, especially when the boy's older brother, Niran, fifteen, cannot be located, adding to the anguish of a distraught mother. Sunee, a Thai, has sought a better life for her boys in Reykjavik, even though her marriage to an Icelander has failed. Erlendur and his team work against time to find the missing boy and discover Elias's murderer. To that end, their interviews reveal a troubling level of rancor toward immigrants at Elias's school, both from students and teachers. But whose rage spilled over to allow the stabbing of an innocent young boy?
Once Niran is found quaking in a basement, that very question leads Sunee to spirit the teenager away, making it impossible for the police to interview the boy or learn what may have provoked his brother's murder. While focusing on Elias's death and what the older brother knows but will not divulge to police, Erlendur is haunted by another case yet to be resolved, a report of a missing woman. The more he learns about the missing woman's husband's background, the more the detective is convinced of foul play. But a series of phone calls throws him off track. Mistakes are made, Erlendur doubting his own instincts as a detective.
Indridason writes of contemporary Iceland touched by the same volatile concerns as other countries in the EU, where the identity of place is threatened by an influx of immigrants either seeking employment or asylum. Sunee's distrust of the police exemplifies the immigrants' tentative relationships to authorities and the deep-seated fears of those who are intimidated by an unfriendly environment. In fact, Erlendur exhibits an extraordinary amount of patience and consideration for Sunee's behavior, attending to his investigation as Sigurdur Oli and Elinborg deliver critical pieces of information that lead to a disturbing discovery of motive and murderer. Solid investigative police work and an intriguing personality make Erlendur a character that never disappoints, always surprises. Luan Gaines/2009.