Iceland, review, Translated

The Draining Lake by Arnaldur Indriðason

draining lakeI think I’ve missed a review or two of the Erlendur series, but I love it a great deal, The Draining Lake being no exception. The book starts with an odd premise, the draining lake of the title. A human skeleton that is murdered and tied to a Russian radio device appears as the lake drains. While a theory about why the lake is draining appears pretty early in the book, the mystery of the skeleton is a much more involving plot, and it involves East Germany, spies, and university students during the height of the Cold War.

I’m not always a fan of books that shift between the past and present, but I was so wrapped up in the backstory (political and personal), and so impressed that the switches between the past and the present felt organic instead of a forced structure that I didn’t mind. Not only is the paranoia in East Germany rendered very vividly, there are just terribly heartbreaking elements threaded throughout the story. I was very impressed with this book.

On the police-procedural-in-Iceland front, I was glad that every main detective had a big non-work plot going. Erlendur’s romantic and family relationships keep moving along (or at least moving in circles), Elinborg launches a successful cook book, and we actually see Oli’s personal life in glimpses.

I read this book while watching early episodes of The Americans, and while I love spy stuff, I realize that I can’t double up on it or my dreams take a very strange turn.Or maybe I just don’t expect my stress dreams to involve spying.

The Draining Lake by Arnaldur Indriðason

Translated by Bernard Scudder

Vintage Books, 2010

Originally published as Kleifarvatn, 2004

I bought my copy of the book.

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10 thoughts on “The Draining Lake by Arnaldur Indriðason”

  1. I like this series very much, too, Rebecca. And part of the reason is exactly the point you make: we learn about the characters as well as follow along with the mystery. And it’s very skillfully done, too, so that neither overtakes the other, if I can put it that way. Very glad you enjoyed this.

  2. Ah – this was the book that took me almost two years to get through – but I wasn’t going to let it beat me! I thought that, even for Icelandic crime fiction, it lacked pace. Glad to see you enjoyed it though.

    1. Funny how reading tastes, vary. I think I was getting enough pace in my real life at the time I was reading it: I needed something more calming.

  3. I have had the first book by Indridason for years and still haven’t read it. I read so many good things about this series, I really should push myself to read it.

    1. The ones I’ve read so far are not as thriller-y as the plots in some of the Wallander series, but the depressed detectives are quite alike, if that helps you decide if you’re ready to take the plunge. One of my projects this year is cleaning out my backlog of series I’ve had gathering dust, which is why I’m hacking away at the backlist. Happy reading, Tracy!

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