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Tuesday 21 August 2018

Thriller: Oblivion by Arnaldur Indridason

Vintage Books, €9.25

Oblivion by Arnaldur Indridason
Oblivion by Arnaldur Indridason

Eilis O'Hanlon

Erlendur Sveinsson is a detective in the classic Scandinavian mode.

A lugubrious, divorced, middle-aged loner, he appeared in nine volumes with increasingly bleak titles such as Hypothermia and Arctic Chill, before apparently making his swan song in 2013's Strange Shores. Soon he was back, though, in an ongoing spin-off series featuring the detective in his younger days in Reyjkavik.

This latest instalment starts when the body of an aircraft mechanic, beaten to death so badly that police initially suspect he must have fallen out of a plane, is found in a lake of waste-water from a nearby heating plant.

Could his murder have something to do with the US army's controversial presence on the island in the post-war period?

Or is the answer closer to home, as Sveinsson's obsession with missing persons (his own brother vanished as a child in a snow storm) leads him to revisit the case of a young woman who disappeared more than 20 years ago?

Oblivion, whose original title was Kamp Knox, is a solid, atmospheric murder mystery, heavy on Indridason's trademark social realism. It's not a book that the Icelandic tourist board will be rushing to promote, to say the least, set as it is in a tough landscape peopled with resilient characters who express themselves in voices as unsentimental as the author's own prose style.

The dialogue feels a little stilted, but that could simply be the way downcast Icelanders talk when they have secrets to hide, and they certainly have plenty of those.

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