Fantasy Mystery Romance Comics Non-Fiction

The Draining Lake

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Draining Lake (2004/2007) Arnaldur Indridason translated by Bernard Scudder

A skeleton has been found in Lake Kleifarvatn–a skeleton with a hole in its skull and a rope tied to a piece of defunct Soviet spying equipment around its waist.

The story shifts back and forth between the present-day search for the murderer and the POV of a young man full of the ideals of Socialism who has traveled to East Berlin in the wake of the war to study Engineering.

In his mind’s eye he had seen an ancient cultural German city. What he found was a sorry, gloomy post-war place. The Allies had occupied Leipzig but later handed it over to the Soviets, and the bullet holes could still be seen in the walls of buildings and half-collapsed houses, the ruins left by war.

The journal of the time in East German is just as fascinating as the search for the identity of the skeleton and how it ended up in the lake.

PLUS the whole thing about the lake suddenly draining on its own.

In general, Sigurdur Óli is one of my least favorite characters in this series, but this cracks me up.

‘He hardly did it himself,’ Sigurdur Óli blurted out. ‘He wouldn’t really go out onto the lake, tie himself to a radio transmitter, pick it up, fall over on his head and still take care to end up in the lake so he’d be sure to disappear. That would be the most ridiculous suicide in history.’

I also like how the characters have lives aside from the mystery. Of course Erlendur’s is mostly seeing Eva Lind spiral out of control, but we’ve been watching Sigurdur Óli’s relationship with his wife develop and change (and as outside observers are able to predict how that’s going to work out over the course of the series) and in this book we get to see Elínborg publish her cooking book. I think that’s one of the things that makes the series so good–besides the mystery–the gradual unfolding of the lives of the characters.

Plus, we get occasional reminders that Erlendr isn’t a complete asshole.

Nifty book that girl’s written,’ he added. ‘I was just looking at it. Good photos.’

‘I think the girl’s in her forties,’ Erlendur said. ‘And yes, it’s a really good book.’

Erlendur inspected the room. He knew virtually nothing about the man sitting on the edge of the bed in front of him, except that he was nasty and foul-mouthed and that his room smelled. He read Einar Benediktsson but Erlendur thought to himself that, unlike the poet, he had probably never in his lifetime ‘turned darkness into the light of day’.

Interesting terms:

I think this is an especially fascinating mystery, and it’s hard not to believe that the person who ended up at the bottom of the lake deserved to be there.
Rating: 9/10

Published by Minotaur Books


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