Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Silence of the Grave - Arnaldur Indriadason

This showed up at my house one day. I think the library somehow mixed up my request for some Chekhov with this book. Or perhaps the person with the same last 4 digits of their library card wound up with my book instead. But this book is small and light, which meant it was a good size for reading-on-the-bus and it came with me one day...and I was hooked. It is a murder mystery set in Iceland, but deep down it is really a story of all the different ways a person can be broken - with a touch of hope that sometimes it is possible to get past the brokenness and live a life with love in it.

A skeleton has been discovered on a construction site, and 3 detectives work to figure out who it might belong to and how it wound up there. This story is interlaced with the story, set in the past, of a family who is obviously connected to the skeleton in some way. Also interlaced are the personal stories of two of the detectives with varying degrees of problems in their personal lives. It is very black without being depressing, and very lovingly put together.

Unlike most murder mysteries, it isn't a whodunnit. You don't know anything at all about the person who is dead, except that they died about 50 years ago and were not buried in a graveyard. You don't even know the gender of the dead person. There is no forensic evidence, no murder scene, no list of suspects in the traditional way - since anyone directly involved is likely to be dead by now. It is obvious that the skeleton either belongs to someone from the family story, or was killed by someone in that story, and I found myself contemplating all the possibilities as I read - obviously it would be best if the skeleton belongs to the abusive father, but discovering that might have horrible repercussions for someone still alive - but it if belongs to the abused mother, then that would have had horrible repercussions in the past, and is probably worse - what if it is the disabled daughter? - or what if the father murdered someone else, what would that have done to the family? I love stories that give me this extra little tidbit of information from the future, and you keep trying to figure out how it is going to fit in. I find that very different from a strict narrative, and far more enchanting.

Not at all the sort of thing I would usually choose to read, but mysteries really pull you along and that can be really relaxing sometimes. Especially cool are the Icelandic names. They are so totally unfamiliar to me: Sindri Snaer, Erlendur, Mikkelina, Grimur...

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