I usually tend to avoid murder mysteries and crime novels, reserving them for plane rides or when I can’t find anything better. They’re good for mindless entertainment, but too often I find these novels poorly written and predictable.
By far my favorite crime writer is Arnaldur Indridason. He writes gripping, chilling, smart books where trying to guess whodunit actually requires some brain power. Indirdason writes in a clear succinct style that is well suited to this genre, and doesn’t sound stilted even after being translated from Icelandic. His novels are filled with twists and turns that are genuinely surprising, as is so rare in most of the murder mysteries I read where you can see the big twist coming from a mile away. I appreciate the thought that clearly goes into these books and makes them such good reads.
This particular book, Outrage, focuses on the brutal murder of a young man in Reykjavik, Iceland. He is found in his apartment wearing a woman’s shirt, throat slit and a bottle of date rape drugs on the coffee table. Elinborg is the detective tasked with solving this crime, and while the stories usually follow the cynical, senior detective Sigurdur Oli, focusing on Elinborg is a welcome change and her family provides a refreshing backdrop for this grim story. There is a colorful cast of supporting characters- drug dealers, creepy college professors, and angry teenage sons, a cripple- who enhance the story as possible suspects and/or helpful witnesses. As always, the creepiness of the crime is elevated by the incredibly bleak setting of Iceland. The grayness, and depression of the country permeates the entire story and lends a dark mood to an already haunting tale.
The bulk of the story follows Elinborg as she pursues different lines of questioning, and follows her hunches trying to solve this heinous crime. Of course this is fiction, so there are some unrealistic embellishments thrown in, but it still feels like a fairly accurate portrait of real police work: smart people being relentless, paying attention to details and pursuing every possible lead. While Outrage doesn’t surpass some of Indridason’s other books such as Jar City or Silence of the Grave, it still passes as very solid entertainment.
To say more would ruin it. The entire joy of reading crime novels is anticipating the unexpected, trying to solve a mystery filled with twists and turns. So just pick it up, and enjoy the ride.