In my review of the Draining Lake, I compared Erlendur to Quirke; Hypothermia does not invite that comparison. In fact, in this one Erlendur is verging on… well, not happiness, nor even contentment, but maybe a degree of equanamity that’s been absent in previous books.
Arnaldur Indriðason’s Hypothermia begins with the apparent suicide of a woman, Maria, who’s found hanging in her vacation cottage by a family friend. There were reasons for her to be depressed enough to have felt suicidal, particularly the recent death of her mother following on the accidental death of her father when she was still a child, an event she had witnessed and which had left her forever changed. Erlendur deep down senses that something’s wrong here; and so he keeps digging.
In the meantime two cold cases also vie for his attention, two young people who went missing at close to the same time 30 years ago. Like Maria, whose family tragedy that continues to haunt her years later, the people left behind in these cases haven’t really been able to move past the loss of their loved ones. Similarly, Erlendur has never stopped fretting over the death of his younger brother, lost in a blizzard when he was just 8 years old. It seems to me that this loss bothers him more than even his strained relationship with his two children, whom he more or less abandoned when he divorced their mother years ago, and a description of his mother’s deathbed explains why.
After her mother died, Maria watched for signs and consulted spiritualists to try to make contact with her ghost. It’s perhaps a heavy-handed way to introduce the theme: ghosts, haunted feelings, questions about faith and death and life after death abound. As for Erlendur, he’s able to help pretty much everyone except himself, although he does seem to come to terms with his need to find his brother’s bones. I’m quite sure we’ll come back to that later in this series.
When I read Arctic Chill, an earlier Erlendur mystery, I commented that Arnaludur Indriðason’s mysteries were too dark to read all together, but I haven’t felt that way about the last two that I read. In fact, I’ll be reviewing Outrage, Erlendur #7, next week.