REVIEW: Strange Shores

I have no idea why I chose to read the final exploits of Detective Erlendur Sveinsson as my introduction to his character, but I did and now I am going to have to track down all the others (there are ten) because I loved it.

Strange Shores by Arnaldur Indridason isn’t exactly Erlendur’s last case, in fact he’s on a bit of a busman’s holiday.

He’s staying in the ruined remains of his childhood home in eastern Iceland. He becomes intrigued by the case of a woman who disappeared in a vicious storm during the Second World War. Sixty British servicemen were also caught up in the storm but they, or their bodies, were all recovered whereas Matthildur simply disappeared without trace.

As a child decades later, Erlendur and his brother Beggi had also got lost in a huge snowstorm with their father. Erlendur and his father were rescued but eight-year-old Beggi disappeared in the storm and was never recovered. It was a tragedy that Erlendur blamed himself for and from which he never really recovered.

Even more decades later Erlendur is still looking for answers as to what happened to his brother… but also wants to solve the 70-year-old mystery of what happened to Matthildur.

I love Scandi Noir and this is the genre at its best.

It conjures up the darkness, cold and isolation of the countryside and, in this one, rather than being based in the city of Reykjavik, it explores the uniqueness of life in small and distant communities. You add to that two cold cases and you have the recipe for an unputdownable book.

The dual storyline comes together effortlessly, with a few surprises along the way and the novel dishes up its fair share of red herrings and a great pace.

This is the final chronological novel of Detective Erlendur and was published in Icelandic in 2010 and in English in 2013. But Indridason, a former journalist, has since written two more novels dealing with the detective’s early cases.

There are a further eight Erlendur novels that pre-date Strange Shores, starting with Jar City, published in 2009 in English.

A cursory glance over my bookshelves reveals at least three more Detective Erlendur novels sitting on them and another from a different series by Arnaldur Indridason. Jar City is one of the books sitting there.

Quite why I didn’t begin with the first book in the series is quite beyond me but I am looking forward to reading it when I do get around to it.

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