Sunday, October 23, 2011

Arnaldur Indriðason: Kvinna i grönt (Silence of the Grave)

Many many years ago (maybe a lifetime if you happen to be Minimus, maybe even a lifetime if you happen to be one of his big sisters - I don't recall exactly) I read a favourable review about Arnaldur Indriðason and then promptly forgot the name. I remember going to the library and asking the librarian if they had well, it's a detective story? Icelandic? There's an I in the name? She did know the name, told me, and I promptly forgot. (For some reason I couldn't borrow a book right then, maybe it was summer and they were all out. Summer tends to be crime fic time in Sweden.) Since then I have actually come across the name enough times to remember it myself; it's been mentioned somehow or other perhaps once a year and trickled itself into my consciousness. However, I still didn't read the books.

Then my cousin in Dublin gave us the film Jar City and I remembered that this was the fella I'd been meaning to read. So at the earliest possible opportunity (it took ages) I toddled off to the library and borrowed a book at random.

What really made me go and get the book was the film, more specifically Icelandic society as it is described, more specifically (since I am somewhat linguistically interested) the fact that it struck me (us) when watching it that this is a society of first names. Of course, I've always known this, but I never really understood it. It's fascinating. Sweden isn't bad at first-name basis itself, but we have surnames to fall back on, to differentiate between different Johns and Marys. A modern society that doesn't have that - I loved it. When you're used to English and American crime fiction and tv/films, where the officers always walk in asking to speak to doctor Smith/Holmes/von Duckenberg it's mildly unsettling when they walk in asking for doctor Steve. So to speak. Hang on, you think. Is it possible? Does society not collapse?

(Another thought that will make your head hurt: in the Chinese one-child society there won't be any cousins any more. Or aunts or uncles.)

What the film wasn't so much as the book (a bit, but not as much) was humorous. The impression in the book is of a fairly slap-dash attitude to policing professionalism, people get trained in other professions and then stumble into the police force by chance. So you get the feeling that when something happens they can be a little affronted: what the hell do I have to take care of this for? I'm not qualified!

It's quite funny, even though the stories told are tragic. Recommended. (This one is about the finding of a dead body and discovering that it's connected to a wife abuser who lived there in the 1940s, and half the book is set in the past, describing the events that took place then.)

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