Indridason, Arnaldur – ‘Outrage’ (translated by Anna Yates)
Paperback: 288 pages (June 2011) Publisher: Harvill Secker ISBN: 1846555507
OUTRAGE is a classic crime novel, in the sense that it tells a story independent of modern technology and gimmicks. It’s also a traditional police procedural. Both these elements provide the reader with an excellent experience, and I think result in a book that is likely to stand the test of time.
Erlendur, the usual protagonist of this series, has taken an abrupt leave of absence (an absence that comes to have increasingly sinister overtones), leaving his colleague Elinborg to take charge when a murdered body is found in an apartment in Reykjavik. In a chilling first chapter a man, Runolfir, meets a young woman in a bar and takes her home, with lethal consequences. The main framework of the novel describes Elinborg’s painstaking investigation, as she uncovers every tiny detail of the victim’s life, as well as that of any possible witness, however eccentric or tangential. I very much enjoy reading about details at this level, so I found the story fascinating, although for me the perpetrator, if not the motive for the crime, was instinctively obvious as soon as this person entered the novel. The motivation, incidentally, is something of a “cheat” as some crucial information is only uncovered right at the end of the book, which is my only quibble with it. But the investigation is certainly suspenseful, with plenty of false leads and layers of “solutions”.
As well as the police procedural aspects, the novel is infused with Elinborg’s domestic life and her thoughts about her work, family and childhood – particularly her difficult relationship with her eldest son, with which many parents of teenagers will identify. Readers of the previous novels in this series will know Elinborg, if only slightly, as a clever and sympathetic police detective who has written a best-selling cookery book. Here we get to know a great deal about her in this absorbing account of her history, concerns and beliefs. She’s a calm, dogged and intelligent protagonist, and I hope she leads more investigations in future.
Although OUTRAGE is ninth in this superb series of novels, and the seventh to be made available in English, it can be read independently of the rest – partly, but not only, because of the author’s device of using Elinborg, a previously subsidiary character, as the chief investigator. I recommend it very highly indeed as a solid, unfussy and highly compelling account of the consequences of crimes on the minutiae of the lives of families and friends of the victims. In classic genre tradition, Elinborg is not satisfied just to solve the case she’s faced with, but goes the extra mile for past victims of this most horrible of crimes.