August 28, 2007


Thrillers and chillers: a review of The Draining Lake (Peter Guttridge, August 5, 2007, Observer)

George Steiner argued in After Babel that translation is reductive: 'ash is no translation of fire'. Perhaps because the language of crime fiction is functional rather than decorative, translations of international fiction can be pretty fiery. But however impressive the translations, too many international crime novels are simply not very good.

Icelandic writer Arnaldur Indridason, the first and last in-translation winner of the CWA Gold Dagger, is an exception. He is back with The Draining Lake (Harvill Secker £11.99, pp400), the latest Reykjavik Murder Mystery, ably translated by Bernard Scudder.

It's an atmospheric story that begins with the discovery of a skeleton half-buried in the exposed bed of a lake with a hole in its skull. It is weighted down with a Russian radio transmitter from the Cold War. Indridason's engaging police team, headed by Erlendur, sets off into the past to a time when idealistic Icelandic students studied in the 'heavenly state' of communist East Germany. Spying, murder and the dashed hopes of youth all figure in the narrative that follows. When the morose, troubled Erlendur first appeared, I thought he was a clone of Rebus, but he's definitely his own man now. A haunting, compassionate work.

There's a supposedly good film version of the first one, Jar City, but I'll be darned if I can find it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 28, 2007 7:28 AM

Really enjoyed Jar City, thanks for the recommendation. Will try this new one as well...

Posted by: darryl at August 28, 2007 9:24 PM