Tainted Blood by Arnaldur Indridason

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Tainted Blood by Arnaldur Indridason

Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A clever and well-constructed police procedural which uses the way in which disease is passed from parent to child in an ingenious way. Recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: December 2006
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099513124

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Now published as Jar City

Holberg was found murdered in his Reykjavik flat. His head had been smashed by an ashtray and he'd then hit the corner of the coffee table as he fell. Scrawled on a piece of paper left on the body was the cryptic message I am him. The man had been a loner and his flat gave away few clues – apart from the photograph of a young girl's grave. Unravelling the mystery was not going to be easy, and detective Erlendur has to use all the forensic resources at his disposal to find any leads at all. Back in the nineteen sixties Holberg was accused of raping a young woman. Could it be that something or someone in his past has come back to seek revenge?

Arnaldur Indridason has been a prize-winning author for many years but Tainted Blood is the first of his books to be translated into English from the original Icelandic. It was a book I picked up on a whim and then left in the 'to read' pile for an unconscionably long time but which has proved to be one of the better crime novels which I've read this year. The translation isn't completely seamless – phrases such as half a year jar slightly when the normal English usage would be six months, but that aside I found little to complain about in this book.

You will need to get used to the unusual Icelandic use of names but this is fully explained at the beginning of the book and ceases to be a problem after a few pages – basically everyone is known by their first name. In a story where blood relationships count for so much this added a delicate edge to the story, as Erlendur searches for people whom, even he has to admit, might not even exist. The question of how some diseases are transmitted – emerging in the female line whilst the males are carriers - is a complex subject but it's handled simply and in a way which makes it understandable. The unlikelihood of events happening in quite the way that they did could have overwhelmed the story, but I found the suspension of disbelief very simple.

This is helped by the characters, of course. Erlendur is middle-aged, scruffy and troubled by his two adult children, who seem uncertain which side of the criminality line they should live. In contrast there's Sigurdur Oli – young, sharp suited and nowhere near as bright as his boss. Elinborg is young, female and looks to have a promising future. They work well together – or just occasionally, in spite of each other.

It's a satisfying book – the ending accepts that in a situation like the one which emerges here not everything can turn out happily, but at the end you know that you've read a very clever and well-constructed book.

If this type of book appeals to you then we think that you might also enjoy He Who Fears the Wolf by Karin Fossum.

Buy Tainted Blood by Arnaldur Indridason at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Tainted Blood by Arnaldur Indridason at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Tainted Blood by Arnaldur Indridason at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Tainted Blood by Arnaldur Indridason at Amazon.com.


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