I might not have heard of Arnaldur Indridason but for Ali Karim, the brilliant essayist and reviewer for Britain’s SHOT e-zine. Ali recommended Arnaldur’s JAR CITY to me several years ago, and I have been addicted to Arnaldur --- and his character, Reykjavik Police Inspector Erlendur --- ever since. OUTRAGE, his latest novel to be published in the United States (following last year’s stand-alone OPERATION NAPOLEON), and carefully translated by Anna Yates, is considered part of the Erlendur canon. Although Erlendur does not appear in this book, his absence casts a grim and foreboding shadow over the proceedings.
"So you might reasonably ask: Why read a novel that is so depressing? The answer is that, as with Arnaldur’s other work, it is so well done, so finely crafted, plotted and paced that the reader is compelled to read the entire book in one sitting while at the same time yearning to read slowly to ensure that nothing is missed."
One of the reasons I worship at the altar of Arnaldur is the unexpected twisting and turning to which he subjects his readers throughout his books. OUTRAGE is no exception. It makes it difficult to tell prospective readers much about the novel without revealing certain plot points. Let’s begin generally by stating that Detective Elinborg, Erlendur’s female subordinate, is the book’s protagonist and is almost his negative image; she has a family that, at least on the surface, is normal and tranquil, comprised of a loving companion (who indirectly assists her in solving the case that is at the heart of the book) and three children.
When the body of a murder victim is discovered in Reykjavik, it is Elinborg who finds herself in charge of the investigation. Erlendur is away, having taken a much-needed vacation to recover from the events that took place in HYPOTHERMIA; his sour but insightful counsel is absent as Elinborg slowly but carefully starts her investigation. It begins, and ultimately ends, in the victim’s home town, an isolated village where the inhabitants, including the victim’s mother, seem willing to cooperate, but only to a certain point.
Dogged police work reveals more clues --- some seemingly important, others not so much --- from a number of disparate and seemingly unreliable sources until a picture of sorts slowly begins to emerge. The case appears to be solved about two-thirds of the way through, but the whole truth is not revealed until close to the end of the book. Those seeking a satisfying ending, in a package with wrapping creases formed neatly at right angles and topped with neatly tied bows, better look elsewhere. Arnaldur has a unique way of making the resolution of a particular case even worse than the crime, and this is especially true of OUTRAGE, where everyone --- including the murder victim --- is much more than they appear to be.
So you might reasonably ask: Why read a novel that is so depressing? The answer is that, as with Arnaldur’s other work, it is so well done, so finely crafted, plotted and paced that the reader is compelled to read the entire book in one sitting while at the same time yearning to read slowly to ensure that nothing is missed. And while complete in itself, it leaves a number of questions dangling at the end, some concerning the (mostly) likable Elinborg, others pertaining to the absent Erlendur, and one that never will be completely resolved. Put OUTRAGE on your must-read list; it will haunt you long after you finish it.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on November 9, 2012