The Draining Lake – Arnaldur Indridason

[I am reading this series of books featuring the Icelandic detective Erlendur and his colleagues out of order. So, if you like what you see here, be warned and check up on the order if it bothers you.]

The lake mentioned in the title drains away to reveal a skeleton weighed down by old, Cold War spying equipment. Erlendur is to investigate and promptly sets off on a relentless, sometimes reckless, pursuit of the truth. It’s an old corpse with little by way of clues to help, but Erlendur will not be deterred.

As readers, however, we see the mystery from the other side, with flashbacks from the height of the Cold War featuring an Icelandic student in Leipzig. These flashbacks get into the nitty gritty reality of living behind the Iron Curtain, with its surveillance society, and Orwellian existence. The Leipzig material builds up into a picture of dark deeds, betrayal, and love lost. It’s sad and all too believable.

Meanwhile, Erlendur, weighed down by his drug addicted, suicidal daughter, and newly interested son, has his own potential love life to sort out. And all the time he keeps plugging away to find out what happened to the man in the draining lake.

The plot has a couple of twists; just enough to give the story a bit of zip. But it does not need any more. The quality of the writing draws the reader in to the inevitable climax.

It flows a little smoother better than Silence of the Grave, and despite the similar thread of trying to find the truth behind a buried skeleton (or two), it’s fresh, interesting, and enthralling. Erlendur’s haunted past is neither overdone, nor light decoration. The author has put together a fine character and supports him well. The atmosphere is dark, dark, dark, with a spark of light, occasional humor, and hope springing eternal. I think.

Well worth reading. I continue to work my way through Indridason’s back catalog.

Finally, I think I forgot to mention it last time out, but the translator – Bernard Scudder – deserves praise, too. He did a great job.