Black Skies by Arnaldur Indridason

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Black Skies by Arnaldur Indridason

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The Erlendur and Elinborg series of murder mysteries set in Reykjavik features a junior member of the team - Sigurdur Oli - this time. It's a good engaging read and cleverly done.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 464 Date: June 2013
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099563372

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Detective Sigurdur Oli has worked himself into a difficult situation. It would be easy to ask why he did what he did. Easier still to say that he's doing the job he wanted to do, but a school reunion left him over-awed by the success of some of his contemporaries and when one of them asked for his help in sorting out a small matter it was a way of demonstrating his position to be able to say that he would help. A friend of his friend was being blackmailed over some photographs taken at a wife-swapping party and Sigurdur Oli agreed to have a word with the blackmailers and retrieve the photographs. It should have been simple - but when he arrived at their home the woman had just been brutally attacked and Sigurdur Oli only just avoided the same fate. He should have come clean about exactly what he was doing there. He didn't.

It's a perfect example of how something relatively small tumbles into a major problem. Set in the time when Iceland was thought of as being affluent, but with some subtle hints that all is not as it ought to be in the economy, the investigation widens into elite banking circles. It's always a difficult point as to whether or not Sigurdur Oli should be involved in the investigation at all, given his personal involvement, but he's convinced that he knows best. In complete contrast a local down-and-out is determined to get his attention, but he doesn't seem able to explain exactly what his problem is, or how he can be helped.

Arnaldur Indridason makes writing look effortless. Despite the book being 450 pages long I read it in a couple of days - it has that 'just another chapter' factor and the story whizzed past. Initially I was slightly disappointed that the story would revolve around Sigurdur Oli, a junior officer. The senior officer, Erlendur, is on leave in rural Iceland and his deputy, Elinborg, is only incidentally involved in the plot. I had the same feeling when I read Outrage, which featured Elinborg and I should have had more faith in Indridason's ability to develop his characters. Sigurdur Oli goes from being shallow, impressed by the superficial and convinced that life will work out to having to confront the failure of his relationship with his partner and examine the effect his parents have had on his life. He also learns that his judgement can be suspect.

The plot looks deceptively simple: we have a reasonable certainty about the identity of the attacker from quite early on, but it isn't going to be quite that simple and the more you read the less certain you will be about who is behind the attack and why. It's very cleverly done. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

For murder from Iceland we can recommend Chilled to the Bone by Quentin Bates.

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Buy Black Skies by Arnaldur Indridason at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Black Skies by Arnaldur Indridason at


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