Saturday, 10 January 2009
Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indridason
Harvill Secker €17.39
ROAMING bands of adolescents spend their days in many Irish housing estates, as their parents work long hours, leaving them without supervision or help.
The same in Iceland, it seems.
Arctic Chill begins with the image of a stabbed child, frozen to the ground by his own blood, dead outside a deserted block of flats.
This is the latest in a series of haunting stories about Icelandic police investigating not just crime, but the chill sadness at the centre of their own lives.
As detectives Erlendur, Elinborg and Sigurdur Óli investigate the death of the half-Thai, half-Icelandic boy, everyone stymies them.
What kind of people are the family, Erlendur asks the interpreter, and she replies: "Very ordinary people. People like you and me. Poor people."
And in Iceland, where people speak plainly and keep a distance from their neighbours, there's a certain distaste for incomers.
The police are halted at every turn, but gradually their work turns up leads: the seedy man with a computer loaded with pornography; the teacher who thinks "they shouldn't let those people into the country"; the feral middle-class children.
Written in a plain, down-to-earth yet lyrical style, Arctic Chill is a cool examination of our value for children - as well as a gripping, harrowing story.