Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Water of Death

“For this reviewer,” Ali Karim writes today in January Magazine, “the appearance of a newly translated novel by Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason constitutes a major publishing event, and each fresh work of his that arrives at my door jumps straight to the top of my reading pile. Indridason’s latest release in the UK, The Draining Lake, is no exception.”

Rather like Peter Robinson’s award-winning 1999 novel, In a Dry Season, and Julia Wallis Martin’s much-acclaimed A Likeness in Stone (1997), Indridason’s newly translated work concerns the discovery of human remains at the bottom of a lake, in this instance “weighted down with what appears to be an old Soviet radio transmitter.” Reykjavik Detective Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson and his team (last seen in 2006’s Voices) are called in to investigate, eventually concluding that “the key to their case lies in a missing automobile, a black Ford Falcon that was owned by a man who vanished mysteriously many years ago.” Meanwhile, Indridason rolls out a compelling parallel tale about a group of idealistic Icelandic students who traveled to East Germany at the height of the Cold War. Slowly, the oldest of that bunch comes to the conclusion that “the socialistic political ideals that persuaded him to study in the communist Eastern Bloc may be no better than those espoused by right-wing ideologues.” And after another of the Icelanders falls in love with a young Hungarian student named Ilona, only to see her taken away by the Leipzig secret police, it looks like these students are in danger not only from the East German police, but perhaps from each other.

“Realistically told, emotionally charged, and brimming with compassion,” Karim dubs The Draining Lake “one of the highlights of 2007.” You can read his full critique here.

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