Friday, February 17, 2017
This story is set parallel to the previous, Outrage and the detective is Sigurdur Óli.
I decided to buckle down and finally read this.
There are several different threads to this story, which made it easier for me to read once the story got going.
First, is Andrés’s story. He first appeared in Arctic Chill, an alcoholic whose ramblings led Erlendur to believe there was a pedophile in the apartment complex where the boy had been murdered.
‘He’s a bit of a tramp, isn’t he? An alcoholic?’ said Sigurdur Óli.
‘So what if he is?’ the woman replied, affronted. ‘He’s never bothered me. He’d do anything for you, he’s never noisy, never makes demands on other people. What does it matter if he has the odd drink?’
We see Andrés remembers bits and pieces of his past, and his abuse by the man living with his mother. This is hard to read, not because of the details–we don’t actually get details of the abuse–but because you see the wreck that Andrés has become, and you see how it happened. Even Sigurdur Óli, who is the least sympathetic creature ever, eventually comes to feel sorry for Andres. Which is perhaps a sign of his emotional growth.
He had been touched by the boy in the film clip. It was a new experience, as he rarely felt any sympathy for the luckless individuals he came across in the line of duty.
The second story arc is complicated–Sigurdur Óli’s friend comes to him with his brother-in-law, asking if Sigurdur Óli could lean on a young woman who was attempting to blackmail the brother-in-law and his wife. When Sigurdur Óli goes to visit the woman, he interrupts the brutal beating of the woman, and chases off the attacker.
But more importantly, does not take himself off the case.
Sigurdur Óli believed himself to be perfectly capable of working on the investigation despite his highly irregular personal involvement in the affair.
Sigurdur Óli could see nothing improper in continuing to work on the investigation despite his friend’s connection to the case. He had full confidence in his own judgement, and anyway Iceland was a small country; links to friends, acquaintances or family were inevitable.
I did mention that I really dislike Sigurdur Óli.
The third arc is about Icelandic banking, and I found it fascinating.
No, really! I remember listening to a Planet Money podcast on the Icelandic bank failure, so this is a look at the lead-up to that failure, from the inside.
they’re no wizards. They’ve simply discovered that there’s a vast supply of cheap credit in the world, short-term borrowing, just there for the taking. They have complex ownership arrangements and scoop up all the credit they can lay their hands on before lending it back to themselves, their companies and each other in order to buy companies, banks and airlines, paying enormous sums for them.’
‘Is there no regulation?’
‘The valuation of assets is governed entirely by them. Look how they’re permitted to record goodwill, which is just some kind of expectation of future revenue. They decide how it’s calculated themselves. It’s a completely fictional number that can be blown up to tens of billions without having any basis in reality, but it helps them ramp up their market price still further. There’s next to no regulation of this sort of trick.’
Hardly a single credit repayment can be made without the whole system coming crashing down.
And of course that last line is precisely what DID happen. But, you know, we don’t need to regulate banks and businesses. They’ll always act ethically.
Except the opposite of that.
The point is that these other parts made a story where Sigurdur Óli was the detective interesting.
Published by Minotaur Books