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The Draining Lake: An Inspector Erlendur Novel (An Inspector Erlendur Series) Paperback – September 1, 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 171 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

At the start of Gold Dagger Award–winner Indridason's carefully plotted fourth entry in his crime series starring detective Erlendur Sveinsson (Jar City, etc.), a human skeleton surfaces in the bed of a lake near Reykjavik that's been mysteriously draining away. The bones are tied to some kind of Russian listening device, presumably a remnant of the Cold War. As Erlendur and his colleagues, Elinborg and Sigurdur Oli, go about checking on people who went missing around 1970, Erlendur is reminded of the disappearance of his younger brother when they were children. Erlendur's lifelong obsession with the missing provides a haunting metaphor for this lonely, middle-aged man, divorced and alienated from his own two children. Elinborg and Sigurdur Oli, on the other hand, aren't particularly persuasive characters, but flashbacks to the University of Leipzig during the Cold War provide compelling insights into the splintered politics of the day, as well as the Icelandic students studying there at the time. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

In this fourth series entry, gloomy Detective Inspector Erlendur is enjoying his summer vacation shut up in his apartment, reading one of his favorite missing-persons stories, when a skeleton tied to a Russian listening device is uncovered. Erlendur takes over the investigation with his usual dogged and obsessive style. No one else really cares about a murdered missing person who might have been a spy, but Erlendur refuses to give up his quest, even if it means digging into Iceland’s socialist past. Erlendur’s enigmatic and irascible former boss, Marion, becomes more than a voice on the phone, as Erlendur, after learning that Marion is seriously ill, begins to visit him. The development of the series characters helps move along the leisurely investigation and keeps the reader engaged. The missing-persons theme and the exploration of Icelandic history and society remain the trademarks of this outstanding series; this time the addition of international espionage will remind readers of Henning Mankell in White Lioness (1988) and Dogs of Riga (2003). --Jessica Moyer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: An Inspector Erlendur Series (Book 4)
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312428588
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312428587
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (171 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #117,220 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gary Griffiths VINE VOICE on October 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason's fourth Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson novel hits the reader with the same force as the earthquake that drained the lake of the title, an earthquake that uncovers not only a skeleton weighed down with Russian Cold War spy gear, but also unleashes an unexpected and passionate attack on communism and the naive ideals that have fueled its misguided historical popularity.

Make no mistake about it - Indridason is the real deal - a writer who can spin a head-scratching mystery with the best of them, while weaving into the fabric of the murder important historical threads that will illuminate while keeping the reader guessing, riveted to the pages all the while. From the discovery of the corpse uncovered by the factual draining of Iceland's Lake Kleifarvatn in 2001, Indridason takes the reader back to Communist East Germany in the 1950's, where idealist young Icelandic socialists are provided Soviet scholarships to the venerable University of Leipzig. But in Irdridason's mastery of parallel stories, utopia begins to unravel when Marxist ideals are confronted with Fascist realities, and the fairytale attraction of a workers paradise collapses as kids are spies for the state, turning on their erstwhile friends for favors of grades and power, creating a Hell in paradise where no one can be trusted and every action is suspect. With unrest in newly minted Soviet satellite of Hungary, and a fragile young Communist Empire in the balance, the situation gets ugly and visions of glorious redistribution of wealth and universal joy begin to fade like the paint job on an East German-made tractor.
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Format: Hardcover
Been a fan of this series since the start and the latest is exceptional.First off, the technique is great, controlled and subtle. Opening pages find us with a lonely woman, who has left a man home in her bed. A stranger. She surveys a lake draining away(it is her job to do so) and she finds a skelton. The juxaposition of these threads in less skilled hands would seem heavy handed. Here, his touch is deft. It works. And it works throught the rest of the novel, which explores loss and how we handle it. Some characters allow one door to close, and another to open (the protagonist, the lead detective is moving to that insight, however slowly and painfully), while others can not do it, including the man who was responsible for the body in the lake. There are other "loss" threads, which he plays off of the main ones. The writing is lyrical(kudos to the translator). A not to be missed series, and while having read the previous books gives a greater understanding, this one can be read as a stand alone.
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Format: Paperback
... Nobel Prize-winner Halldor Laxness abandoned his ecstatic Catholicism and became a fervent Socialist during and as a result of a visit to the United States. His mature novels all express his fierce commitment to economic and social justice, but Laxness was no "statist" of any ideological sort. He was exactly the Icelandic loner he portrayed in his greatest novel "Independent People". My guess is that if Laxness had been a Russian or an East German, instead of an Icelander, he'd have been silenced before his second novel.

But what does Halldor Laxness have to do with "The Draining Lake", a crime novel, the fourth installment in the popular series starring the glum Inspector Erlandur? Well, quite a lot actually... Every Icelandic author writes in the shadow of Laxness, even Arnaldur Indridason, whose books current outsell the master's by at least a hundred to one. In fact, Laxness makes an explicit appearance, a 'walk-on' in the meditation-memories of Tomás, the idealistic young Icelandic socialist whose studies in communist East Germany in the 1950s are somehow enmeshed in the 'disappearance mystery' Erlandur is compelled to investigate. Tomás remembers his own emotion at finding himself standing under the statue of Bach in Leipzig, exactly where Laxness had stood before.

The Draining Lake is an entertainment first and foremost, the sort of crime novel that holds the reader entranced with clues and false clues up to the final chapter. But it's also a moral tale about idealism and the survival of such ideals even after the most heinous possible betrayal.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of the best mysteries of any kind I have read in many years.
As good or better than Henning Mankell at his best. Fine plottting, great
atmosphere, and unique insights into human nature at its best and worst.
Don't miss this very fine book.
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Format: Paperback
THE DRAINING LAKE is yet another title in Arnaldur Indridason's Reykjavik series. They're all good, old-fashioned detective novels, although set in contemporary Iceland. Indridason's writing is powerful: it's spare, direct, and solid.

The main character in these books is a detective named Erlendur, who schleps through a far from glamorous life, solving cases with his team. Erlendur is estranged from his wife and he has a tenuous, largely unhappy, relationship with his two adult (burn-out)children. He reads obsessively about travellers who have vanished in Iceland's wilderness; his younger brother disappeared in a blizzard when they were kids, and that tragedy overshadows everything in Erlendur's life. As prickly and churlish as Elendur can be, he's a decent police officer who is conscientious in his work.

Of course, Erlendur's fellow detectives have to include a handsome, younger cop and a woman--in this case, Sigurder Oli and Elinborg, respectively. Indridason is really good at allowing all of these characters to become more complex and well-developed throughout the series, revealing them little by little.

But the most interesting component of all is Iceland itself. Indridason brings the country and its people to life, in all its bleakness. It's a harsh environment, and the prose style fits the setting exactly. Detective Erlendur's cool reserve seems to be a function of his surroundings, as he deliberately moves toward resolving cases.

In THE DRAINING LAKE, Erlendur and his team catch a case involving Cold War-era spies. Iceland, which still hosts an American military base, was a fairly significant area during the Cold War--right on the border between the Soviets and the West.
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