Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Review of Black Skies by Arnaldur Indridason (Harvill Secker, 2012)

Sigurdur Oli has found himself at a crossroads.  His long-term relationship has recently come to an end and his life has not turned out as he hoped.  He’s even questioning whether he wants to continue being a police officer.  When a friend who is being blackmailed asks for unofficial help, he agrees to try and resolve the issue.  He arrives at the blackmailer’s house to find her badly injured and her attacker fleeing.  He calls for backup and an ambulance, but is unwilling to tell his colleagues what he was doing there in the first place.  He should withdraw from the investigation, but instead he sets off trying to solve the case by himself.  Slowly he starts to piece things together, whilst also trying to come to terms with his own social situation and his father’s illness, and dealing with a tramp who keeps trying to tell him something important but never quite imparts his tale.

Having read all seven, translated police procedural novels by Arnaldur Indridason featuring Erlandur and his team, I was looking forward to reading Black Skies.  It was, however, a book I struggled to get into and I might have put it to one side to pick up again later except for the fact that it was the only reading material I had on a flight.  The first hundred pages or so seemed ponderous and lifeless, the writing, especially the dialogue, flat.  Sigurdur Oli is out of sorts and so is the tale.  Indridason’s writing is always a little ponderous, building up in layers, gently engulfing the reader in an atmospheric fog, but it didn’t quite work in the first half of Black Skies.  However, by the second half of the book the story took on more shape, purpose and pace, with the various strands being woven together to create a nice tapestry.   It was almost if Indridason started off without really knowing Sigurdur or the plot and developed each as the story unfolded, slowly putting a form on each.  The tale itself, with its three interconnected storylines - the murder investigation, Sigurdur’s private life, and Andreas’ disassembly - eventually work themselves out nicely.  Moreover, given that the story is set just prior to the Icelandic financial meltdown it provides a nice insight into the national psyche concerning its new found wealth and its trappings.  Overall, a book that takes a while to get going, but rounds out into a satisfactory police procedural.


Anonymous said...

Rob - Thanks for your thoughts on Black Skies. That one's coming up quite soon on my TBR and it's good to know you thought it a solid story.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I read his first two and then he ran out of steam for me.