by Bruce TierneyOctober, 2006
Mystery of the Month
This month's Tip of the Ice Pick goes to award-winning Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason, for his latest (and, it must be said, somewhat disturbing) thriller, Silence of the Grave. His first novel released in the U.S., 2005's Jar City, introduced world-weary police inspector Erlendur Sveinsson, and left readers clamoring for more. The book won the Glass Key Award for Best Nordic Crime Novel, a distinction shared with such luminaries as Karin Fossum, Henning Mankell and Peter Hoeg. Now Erlendur is back to investigate a decades-old case that may or may not be a murder. Over the years since World War II, Reykjavik has continued to expand. Construction sites are everywhere, but this is the first time in Erlendur's memory that a skeleton has been unearthed in one of them. He gathers together a crack team of forensic specialists and investigators (most with names quite unpronounceable to the native English speaker), and embarks on what may well be a fool's errand. Still, murder has no statute of limitations, and Erlendur must rule that out before he can let the case drop. Silence of the Grave is really four separate stories woven together, and deftly at that: the ongoing investigation of the grisly findings at the construction site; a cold case (although perhaps all cases in Iceland fall into that category to some degree) of suicide and sexual betrayal; a postwar case of domestic violence that escalated into something unexpected and unspeakable; and the modern-day tale of a disaffected police officer and his severely dysfunctional family. Bit by bit, as these disparate chapters unfold, the reader begins to get an idea of the identity of the deceased, and how he (or she) came to an end; then time and time again, the investigation hits a dead end, and all of our preconceived notions have to be re-evaluated. Sympathetically translated from the original Icelandic by Bernard Scudder (as was Jar City), Silence of the Grave is a darkly atmospheric novel, a book to be read slowly and savored on a cold October night.