Hypothermia by Arnaldur Indriðason: A review

HypothermiaHypothermia by Arnaldur Indriðason
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The title Hypothermia could refer to a tragic incident in Inspector Erlendur's childhood when he and his younger brother were lost in a sudden blizzard while out helping their father look for the family's sheep. The two brothers became separated in the storm and the younger one was never found. He was presumed dead. Erlendur survived - barely. He was covered by several feet of snow and suffering from hypothermia and frostbite when found, but the searchers were able to save him.

The title could also refer to a technique of deliberately lowering the body's temperature to the point that the heart stops and the person is clinically dead. If not too much time has passed, the person can then be revived by medical personnel and brought back to life. Supposedly, while the person is "dead," he can visit "the other side" and see what, if anything, waits for us there. As it turns out, such a medical experiment plays a part in the mystery which Erlendur is called upon to investigate in this entry in Arnaldur Indriðason's Icelandic mystery series.

Erlendur is just as much of a morose sad sack as ever, but, for some reason, I did not find him as annoying as he has been in previous books. He seemed somewhat more sympathetic this time around and I felt that I could understand his motivations just a bit better. Perhaps he has good reasons for his irascible personality.

Erlendur and his team are called out to a holiday cottage on a lake where the body of a woman has been found hanging from the ceiling. Maria had suffered from depression and various neuroses and had never recovered from her grief over the death of her mother two years before. Her death at first seems a straightforward case of a distraught person unable to face continued life and deciding to put an end to it all. There is no evidence to suggest anything other than suicide. And yet, something about the situation seems off to Erlendur.

That feeling of discontent stays with him even after the verdict of suicide is returned. Then, he is contacted by one of Maria's friends who gives him more information about her terror of the dark and about the fact that she had been visiting mediums in an attempt to contact her mother and get proof of whether there is life after death. He begins an unofficial investigation which uncovers painful family secrets going back many years to the death of Maria's father. When she was just a child, he had drowned in the lake by the cabin in which she later died.

While Erlendur pursues his off-the-record inquiries, he is also consumed by two missing persons cases from long ago. In fact, from around the same time that Maria's father died. The cases have long gone cold with no leads to give a clue as to what happened to the two people. The cases were separate. There was never anything to connect the two people who disappeared, but after reinterviewing family and friends, Erlendur begins to suspect that the cases may be related.

The process by which the inspector pursues these separate cases is slow and methodical and revelatory of his dour, melancholic personality. While he is putting together the puzzle of what happened, he is interrupted by his own family matters. His daughter, Eva, a recovering addict, is obsessed with trying to get her two parents to be friends or at least to talk to each other - something which they haven't done for years. To please his daughter, Erlendur finally reluctantly agrees to meet with his ex-wife. It is not a happy encounter.

In addition to Erlendur seeming more fully human and humane in this entry, his two grown children, especially Eva, were also considerably less annoying. There were definitely fewer histrionics this time, an improvement all around.

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  1. So, is this series growing on you yet? I got the impression that that is the case.

    1. I've enjoyed the last two that I've read in the series, so, yes, I guess it is growing on me.

  2. I've got Jar City waiting for me at the library. Though why I want to read a story set in Iceland during the coldest December we have had in a while I don't know. Time to get out the goose down comforter!

    1. I've found the series a little hard to get into. The main character is a complicated and not particularly likable man, but, as I indicated in my review, maybe I'm beginning to understand him a bit better and the series is actually starting to grow on me.


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