Book review: Strange Shores by Arnaldur Indriðason

Strange Shores is the latest installment in Indriðason’s Detective Erlendur series. This book is quite different from the others in the series and I think it will be either loved or strangeshoreshated by fans.

There is an ongoing storyline in the previous books in the series about Erlendur’s brother being lost in a snowstorm as a child. Erlendur has always blamed himself for this, but the reader doesn’t know too much about the background of the incident. This book finally addresses this storyline with Erlendur’s return to his childhood home in east Iceland. While he tries to find out exactly what happened to his brother who was never found, he also investigates the historical disappearance of local woman Matthildur, who was also lost on the moor during a storm. As he talks to elderly residents about their memories of Matthildur, will they be able to shed any light on his brother’s case?

I’ve always loved the idea of the brother-in-the-snowstorm story, so this is the book I’ve been waiting for. I managed to hold on to it for three months before reading it. I’m happy to say that there is closure  – I was worried this would be one of those stories that was never actually resolved. I loved this book and preferred it to the previous two which focused more on Erlendur’s colleagues. There is a bit of a last-book-in-series-tying-up-loose-ends feel to this one and I can see how some wouldn’t like the ending.

The reason I think this book could be hated by some is that the overall tone is quite different to the others in the series. Anyone buying it thinking it’s a gritty modern crime thriller will be disappointed. The tone is sad more than scary, and it’s more of a “story” than a crime novel. The mention of Reykjavík on the cover to attract foreign readers is a mistake, as nothing takes place there. This is a book not to be read out of order from the others in the series – you must read this one last.

The normally reclusive Indriðason recently gave an interview to The Telegraph to celebrate the book’s release.

I understand the next book takes us back to 1972 and the focus is on Marion Briem – can’t wait!

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18 thoughts on “Book review: Strange Shores by Arnaldur Indriðason

  1. Sounds like a cool story – especially so if it’s not a super gritty crime novel, as those aren’t my favorite. You say not to read the books in this series out of order – but what about reading this particular book as a stand-alone? Would I be totally lost if I picked this one up as my first and only read for this character?

    • Just my 2 cents: You would enjoy this book a lot more if you had read at least a couple of the previous books. Jar City (Tainted Blood) for sure, then perhaps Voices and Hypothermia. They are all great – if you can get into the atmosphere. IMHO Erlendur is one of the greatest characters ever created in detective fiction; do yourself a favor and savor all the books in order, it’s worth it. At the very least read Jar City to see if you can get into the somewhat bleak atmosphere of the series.

      • I completely agree, and it’s a good point that if you’re going to read the books, you should treat yourself and read all of them. In fact I’m tempted to start them all over again! This kind of book isn’t for everyone so starting with book one (Jar City) would be a good way to gauge if these are for you or not.

    • As per other comments on this page, I think it’s worth reading the whole series if you are going to read them. Logically, yes, you could read this on its own but then you have missed a lot of buildup and a lot of small details that have gone before. The other books are “grittier” so may not be for you. The first one is Jar City if you want to test the waters with that one.

  2. I just finished Strange Shores this morning, and am sad but satisfied. I love Erlendur as a character, and this series of books. I do think that it is good to read them in order, and this one especially needs to be last, in order to appreciate the unfolding of Erlendur’s character and the backstory that this one fills in. This is the first crime / mystery writer that has hooked me, in no small part because I am an Icelandophile as well, and I really enjoy the descriptions of the geography and culture. It’s nice to know that there is a ‘prequel’ coming that is set in Erlendur’s early police days with Marion Briem as the focus. Something to look forward to as I go back and re-read the series…

  3. First discovered Indrididason’s books purely by chance some years back,after a small review,i think it was the Daily Mirror arts section,and i was gripped from the start.I find them to be very descriptive to the point of feeling the wind chill swirling around each page.The impact the readings had on me were reflected in me making my first trip to Reykjavik last year,and i loved my three days there.Would like to return one day,i felt very much at home there and just as importantly safe.I adore Nordic crime novels,especially the man from Iceland’s capital,the most.Hope you enjoy my feedback,as i stumbled across your blog by chance,incidentally you provide great information on all aspects of lifestyle Iceland.Keep it going Eva!

      • Thanks for the reply Eva,yes as books go i find they grip from the off set,still too read his latest one,but will make amends soon.He’s my best author by a long stretch,enjoy,Mankell a great deal,but for me Arnuldur has the Nordic literary crown,for how long?that’s down to him.
        Thanks again for your information.

  4. Hi Eva,
    i know your having a spot of respite from blogging,but i would like to say that i have just finished reading “Strange Shores”and i loved it hugely.Smoulderingly paced and as delicately tenacious as ever a policeman that Erlendur is,he has compassion in equal measures to look the other way.This novel does not disappoint at all,and offers us the conclusion’s we needed.
    PS Enjoy your break.

  5. Just finished Strange Shores this morning on the train ride to work. I felt like crying at the end of the book. Having read all the previous books in this series, the fact that there is finally closure for Erlandur makes me happy, and yet sad. I always enjoyed reading this series, the descriptions and the atmosphere of the stories were always very real to me. There was usually mention of his lost little brother and the torment he felt because he felt responsible, was a very interesting aspect of the series.

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