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Indridason, Arnaldur - 'Voices' (translated by Bernard Scudder)
Hardback: 320 pages (Aug. 2006) Publisher: Harvill Secker ISBN: 1846550335

VOICES is the fifth in the Erlendur series but only the third to have been translated into English. JAR CITY (aka TAINTED BLOOD) won acclaim and SILENCE OF THE GRAVE won the CWA Gold Dagger.

VOICES opens a few days before Christmas in Reykjavik with the discovery of a hotel doorman stabbed to death in his cubby-hole of a room below stairs, where he had lived rent free for twenty years.

The doorman was a nondescript person with few friends and was estranged from his family. Initially there seems no motivation for the killing. Erlendur, who does not appear to enjoy the festive season decides to stay in the hotel whilst pursuing the investigation. He discovers that there are some underhand dealings going on at the hotel which might provide a reason to silence the doorman. However he also finds that the doorman had a secret which also might be the key to his untimely demise.

As well as this investigation, his colleague Elinborg is going to court to see through the prosecution of a suspected child abuser and this case is related to the reader through Erlendur's recapping of the circumstances leading up to the trial. Whilst Erlendur stays in the hotel, he's visited by his wayward, former drug using daughter Eva Lind who wants him to return home. Through their interactions and other flashbacks a significant event from Erlendur's childhood is revealed.

VOICES is a very dark police procedural with all the layers unfolding at a fairly slow pace. Erlendur is brought to life, morose and solitary but trying to make things up to the daughter he abandoned upon his divorce and also making a tentative stab at a new relationship. His two close colleagues, Sigurdur Oli and Elinborg are less well fleshed out and don't leave such a strong impression. There is a strong sense of Reykjavik in winter, with all the tourists buying their jumpers as soon as they arrive. The plot is well constructed with a number of possible culprits revealed, and though there's a hint as to the final answer it still wasn't what I was expecting. Be warned, though this is set at Christmas time, it doesn't contain much Christmas cheer.

Read more reviews of VOICES, here and here.

Karen Meek, England
January 2007

last updated 29/09/2008 14:39