The problem with finally getting around to a book that you’ve wanted to read for a while is that you’ve often a fair idea of what other readers think of it. No matter hard I try not to look at reviews, or quickly I skim read the ones I do see, I always get a sense of how a book has been received. So I opened Strange Shores with trepidation as I’d seen mixed reviews of the latest, and possibly last, instalment of Indridason’s series featuring Reykjavik detective, Erlendur. However, I have to say I was impressed in terms of both the plotting and the way in which Indridason seemingly concludes the outing for this particular character. If only other writers could finish a series with so light a touch.
Erlendur, on leave from his job in the Reykjavik police department, is camping in his childhood home. A frequent visitor to the place, he is continually searching for the brother whom he lost in a snowstorm when they were both children. He hears the story of a local woman, Matthildur, who also went missing years earlier on the night of a violent storm and rumours abound as to what became of her. As he begins to ask questions about the background to that fateful evening, he unwittingly begins to discover what may have also befallen his brother.
A narrative that focuses on a historic crime is a relatively common theme, in crime fiction in general and also in Scandinavian novels. It can sometimes have mixed results. There’s an immediate distance created; the lapse of time can make the action less compelling. Indridason largely solves this by aligning Erlendur’s hunt for his missing brother with the case. Although this also a decades old mystery, those familiar with the series will recognise the weight of survivor’s guilt felt by Erlundur which has haunted him through the books. The outcome to Matthildur’s disappearance is satisfyingly gruesome but, ultimately, it is the resolution, of sorts, of Erlendur’s quest that stays with the reader.
Is this it for Erlendur? A tip-off by the excellent writer, Quentin Bates, on twitter says that the next book takes Erlendur back to 1974. So this may well be the last contemporary investigation for the character. If this is the case, it’s an excellent finish to the series.
Thanks to Vintage for my copy. The translation was by Victoria Cribb.