Black Skies – Arnaldur Indridason

Detective Sigurdur Oli is one of a trio of detectives created by the Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason. (See my review of his Outrage, here.)  Each has his own, distinct character and back story, full of day to day issues and challenges like family, relationships, commitments and so on, combining to fill out a believable, solid personality.

Oli is recovering from the breakup of his relationship, and getting to terms with being on his own. He attends a school reunion which turns out to have been setup as an opportunity for one of his contemporaries to flout his latest success in the escalating financial world. Oli’s less successful life irks him somewhat, but he moves on.

His trouble really starts when, at the request of a friend, he visits a blackmailer to find that person battered and unconscious. When the victim dies in hospital, Oli pushes the boat out by investigating the murder without letting on why he was there in the first place.

As he investigates, and digs himself into a deeper hole, the tale of blackmail spins out to involve dodgy financial dealings of some of the newly minted bankers of Reykjavik. At this point, Oli’s bitter edge returns. And, at the same time, he keeps crossing paths with the other end of the social spectrum – a down and out who is desperately trying to tell Oli something, but cannot quite bring himself to do so.

The writing is clean, lean and lacking pretension. The characterization is good, and the story telling is first class. There’s a clear empathy for the downtrodden exhibited in Oli’s – and presumably the author’s – perspective, and a healthy dose of criticism of the financial follies that eventually brought Iceland to its knees.

The whole package is a quality piece and highly recommended. Straightforward, solid crime writing and enough to encourage more reading of the author’s works.

Score: 8/10.