- 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 0.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (180 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #94,508 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Draining Lake: An Inspector Erlendur Novel (An Inspector Erlendur Series) Paperback – September 1, 2009
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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.
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.
Top Customer Reviews
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. Despite encouragement from his colleagues to drop what is obviously a forgotten and insignificant decades old murder, the stubborn and irascible Erlendur steadfastly clings to the case, badgering septuagenarian potential witnesses and literally digging up clues buried for over forty years.
Told with the an unshakable and remorseful tone of Scandinavian fatalism, Indridason writes from a pallet that contains no bright shades, yet nonetheless succeeds in painting a tale so rich in tones of gray and black and Stygian black that it crosses the bounds of the story, bleeding into Inspector Sveinsson's miserable life, and to the lives of those who surround him. If this doesn't sound like a lot of fun, well, it's certainly not Comedy Central - and how happy can you be living in Iceland? But "The Draining Lake's" unmistakable power and seductiveness and gravity lies in the author's bleak and brutal prose, coupled with his skill in spinning a darn good yarn. This is a modern primer in political reality, colored and only barely overshadowed by a truly baffling and well-drawn murder mystery. And, hey, how can you not like a book that features a richly drawn cast with kick-butt Icelandic names like "Valgerdur" and "Elinborg" - and they're the women!
So trust me here - Indridason just keeps cranking out novel after novel of intelligent crime that defines an entirely deeper level of noir. Read it for the history or the mystery or simply for the stylist treatment of despair - but whatever the reason, this Arctic Circle guy deserves some space on your bookshelf.
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. Inspector Erlandur, with his weary guilt-ridden honesty, is not the central figure of this installment; Tomás is, and the reader quickly begins to speculate what sort of "flash of recognition" might pass between these two sad men when finally they meet. And it's obvious that they will come together, but I have no intention of disclosing how or when.
This is also a novel about that portion of the world that isn't Iceland, where something as vile as "interactive surveillance" could corrupt the noblest ideals. Half of the story takes place in Leipzig, where Tomás falls in love with Ilona, another idealistic student from Hungary. Tomás is one of several Icelanders in Leipzig on grants from the Communist state. Eventually, back in Iceland, in their seventies by now, two of those students will find themselves confronted with the police, interrogated by Erlandur and his colleagues, and for them "interrogation" brings back their worst memories. They are both impressive "independent" people, utterly enraged by the "charade" of socialism they saw and rejected in the Stalinist hell of the '50s, and yet as idealistic as ever, rejecting any hint of cynicism.
Here's a passage from Erlandur's interrogation of Hannes, an Icelander who was booted out of the university in Leipzig and sent home in shame to Iceland; Erlandur asks him about "socialism as a genuine alternative to capitalism.
"I don't think it's dead," Hannes said, as if reaching some kind of conclusion. "I think it's very much alive, but in a different way from what we imagined. It's socialism that makes it bearable for us to live under capitalism."
"You're still a socialist?" Erlandur said.
"I always have been," Hannes said. "Socialism bears no relation to the blatant inhumanity that Stalin turned it into or the ridiculous dictatorships taht developed across Eastern Europe."
Here's another passage; the speaker is a woman, Rut, who left Leipzig voluntarily:
".... the socialism we believed in then and believe in now remains the same, and it played a part in establishing the labour movement, ensuring a decent wage and free hospitals to care for you and your family, educated you to become a police officer, set up the national insurance system, set up the welfare system. But that's nothing compared with the implicit socialist values we all live by, you and me and her, so that society can function. It's socialism that makes us into human beings."
Laxness might have said it with more literary flair, but his message would have been similar.
Indridason is not a writer of the genius of Halldor Laxness. I doubt that he aspires to be. But this is a powerful indictment, this detective fiction, of the abuses of humanity in the former communist dictatorships. "Interactive surveillance" indeed! It's painful to remember how close America came to the same villainy at the same time, in the McCarthy era, and again with Bush/Cheney's Patriot Act. Tyranny cloaked in the rhetoric of idealism is the ugliest tyranny of all.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
the characters are complex and well developed and the involvement of the unique Icelandic environment adds a special richness...Read more