Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indridason is the third book in the Reykjavik mysteries I’ve read and proves what a consistently strong series and masterful writer Indridason is.
The book opens with the city in the grip of a bleak and icy winter. Winds are blowing from the north, ravaging the landscape and making outdoors decidedly unpleasant. When a young Thai immigrant is found dead not far from his home, his little body stuck to the ice and anorak torn, Detective Inspector Erlendur and his team suspect a racially motivated crime.
As they delve further into the child’s tragic death, and get to know the nuclear family of which he was a part, they come to understand what it means to leave one’s motherland, family and culture to start afresh on the other side of the world and the commitment and desire that drives such a relocation. They also unleash a nest of bigots who make the immigrants’ life a misery and who rail against what they perceive as a threat to Icelandic traditions and culture and language.
Is the desire to maintain a status quo motivation for murder? The closer Erlendur gets the truth, the more tragic this tale of xenophobia, desperation to preserve Icelandic history and culture becomes.
This novel resonated so strongly with the current political and cultural climate, not just in Australia, but in many other countries around the world who have experienced waves of immigration and those who harden their hearts and close their minds to both the plight of refugees and Otherness and the positive experiences that can be had by welcoming them.
Erlendur and his team are dogged and loyal; the questions they ask of suspects and themselves are real and probing and while the book is about a crime, perhaps the greatest is the lack of humanity we show to those with whom, in the end, we have far more in common with than any differences.
Another great, thought-provoking read.