Outrage (original title Myrká) is the latest book in Arnaldur Indriðason’s Detective Erlendur series to be translated into English. The series is written around three detectives: the main character Erlendur, and his colleagues Sigurdur Óli and Elínborg, who we don’t see as much of. One thing they all have in common is complicated relationships with their families. The books are pretty similar in the way they are structured, in that there is a main mystery to be solved and a smaller mystery as a sideline. Sometimes the two mysteries turn out to be connected. There is also an ongoing storyline throughout the series, involving the disappearance of Erlendur’s brother during a storm when they were out together as children. I really enjoy this sub-plot, and the previous book to Outrage, Arctic Chill, ended with Erlendur going back to the Eskifjördur area where his brother disappeared to try and tackle his demons about this incident, which he is still haunted by.
This opened the door for Outrage to feature Elínborg as the lead character. The central mystery revolves around a man who has been found murdered after going out in the evening and picking up a girl. Date rape drugs are involved, which leads the story into the world of rape victims and drug dealers. The killer seems to be identified much earlier in this book than normal, but then there are twists and I couldn’t figure out what actually happened until it was spelled out towards the end.
We learn a lot more about Elínborg’s family life in this book than we have done previously, and also grow to understand why she has such a great love of cooking. Her challenges with juggling multiple children and a police career make her quite admirable. These books normally address current social issues such as immigration and this time it includes the evils of blogging! We find out she has a blogging son Valþór, who doesn’t talk to his family, but in fact talks about them quite badly along with his other problems on his blog, which they of course are reading. An interesting commentary on the decline of family life and everybody talking online rather than getting together any more. As someone who has recently started blogging I loved this bit.
I also enjoyed the glimpses into the dreariness of small village life, which are much more interesting to read about than to have to live with.
Criticisms: I was really looking forward to see how Indriðason would manage having a different lead character, but I have to admit I really missed Erlendur, who I think is a much stronger and more sympathetic character, despite perhaps not being as likeable as Elínborg. I feel that there is nowhere to go with Elínborg as a character now that we’ve gotten to know her a bit. Maybe that’s just because she doesn’t have her own mysterious subplot and seems quite straightforward. This is the first full book that Anna Yates has translated from the Icelandic and I must admit that I think that Bernard Scudder’s translations felt less stilted generally and were a bit smoother to read. It’s hard to explain why that is, but sometimes you just notice that what you’re reading probably doesn’t read as well as it should do. Finally, although the overall storyline was of course dark, I didn’t think it was as creepy in its concept as some of Indriðason’s works.
This probably sounds like quite a negative review, but I did enjoy it overall. I just don’t think it’s as strong as some of the earlier books. I don’t know how long we will have to wait for the translation of Svörtuloft but I’m really looking forward to it already.
As an aside, I don’t read many of the other authors involved in the current “Scandinavian crime” explosion as the books often look quite dry when I flip through them. I only started reading Indriðason’s books after seeing the Jar City film (the first in the series that is translated to English) and would recommend them even if you don’t generally read this genre. You do need to read them sequentially as some storylines develop from book to book. I find them easy to read but with enough plot twists to keep you guessing.