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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Goodreads | Eric_W Welch (Forreston, IL)'s review of The Draining Lake

Goodreads | Eric_W Welch (Forreston, IL)'s review of The Draining Lake:


An earthquake near an Icelandic lake causes part of the lake to drain and a skeleton is discovered attached to some Soviet listening devices, presumably dating from the Cold War..  Detective Erlendur Sveinsson  (The Jar City) has his own problems with a daughter constantly getting into trouble, a son who resents his aloofness, and his own periodic and obsessive search for a brother gone missing many years before in a snowstorm. He and his colleagues try to track down the identity of the dead man, but no one wants to revisit the Cold War times, especially one in which idealistic socialist Icelandic students succumbed to the blandishments of Soviet agents seeking to spy on a country that  many called “an American aircraft carrier.”

The skeleton was found with an antiquated spy machine tied around it as a weight. Unlike most Icelandic murders, which were easier to solve, this one, appeared to have been carefully planned, skilfully executed, and had remained covered up for so many years. Icelandic murders were not generally committed in this way. They were more coincidental, clumsy and squalid, and the perpetrators almost without exception left a trail of clues.

Erlendur continues his attempts at reconciliation with his daughter Eva who has been in and out of drug rehab and hospitals. (She a recurring character in all three of the Erlendur novels I have read adding to his -- and the reader’s -- despair.)  The images conjured up in my mind were all in black and white.  No color anywhere.

Iceland, as portrayed in these novels, remains inhospitable to the reader, and discourses on the Icelandic diet don’t make me want to rush to O’Hare and grab the first IcelandicAir to Reykjavik.

'What monstrosity is that?' she asked, pointing to a boiled sheep's head on the table, still uneaten. 'A sheep's head, sawn in half and charred,' he said, and saw her wince. 'What sort of people do that?' she asked. 'Icelanders,' he said. 'Actually it's very good,' he added rather hesitantly. 'The tongue and the cheeks . . .' He stopped when he realised that it did not sound particularly appetising. 'So, you eat the eyes and lips too?' she asked, not trying to conceal her disgust. 'The lips? Yes, those too. And the eyes.'

The gloom of these novels was summed up nicely by the discovery of an older woman, seated in front of her television, a plate of salted meat and boiled turnips was on the table beside her. A knife and fork lay on the floor by the chair. A large lump of meat was lodged in her throat. She had not managed to get out of the deep armchair. Her face was dark blue. It turned out that she had no relatives who called on her. No one ever visited her. No one missed her.


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