Black Skies by Arnaldur Indriðason: A review

Black Skies (Inspector Erlendur)Black Skies by Arnaldur Indriðason
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If Sigurður Óli lived in 2016 America, he'd be a yuge Donald Trump supporter. He would attend the rallies (probably wearing a tee shirt with the Confederate flag emblazoned on it) and would happily participate in the evicting and maybe roughing up of any protesters or Muslims who dare to show up. He is an angry right-winger who is dissatisfied with the way Icelandic society is going. It's letting in too many immigrants. It's providing too strong a safety net. It's too soft on crime.

That last one is the one that really gets his goat, because he is with the Reykjavik police, which forces him to place constraints on his basest - and racist - instincts.

His ideal is America. He attended police academy in America. His favorite place for a vacation is Orlando, Florida. He loves American television and American sports, especially baseball and football. He is enthralled by American capitalism and by the young tycoons in his own country who are following its example.

At the time of this tale, Iceland is enjoying its economic boom, which, like many of the era, turned out to be something of a bubble built on nothing but hot air. At a school reunion, Sigurður Óli sees many of his former classmates who are profiting from the boom and spend their free time partying with the international jet set. Siggi, on the other hand, has been in a relationship which now seems to be on the rocks and his career in the CID seems to be going nowhere. He is one miserable camper and a miserable human being to boot.

Black Skies finds Inspector Erlendur still on his walkabout as he was in the last book, Outrage. He's off in the place where he grew up, looking for a ghost from his past. No one, not his work team, his children, or his lover, has heard from him for a couple of weeks, and his daughter, in particular, is beginning to show some concern. Will the next book feature a missing person search for Erlendur?

Outrage had another member of Erlendur's investigative team, Elinborg, as the main character. She is a warm and sympathetic character and the reader pulls for her to do well and be happy. Now, we get the other side of the coin with Sigurður, a character for whom it is really hard to work up any empathy.

Sigurður gets involved in a case when he agrees to do a favor for one of his classmates that he met at that school reunion. To do so, he has to pay a visit to a purported blackmailer, a woman who has some incriminating pictures in her possession. When he gets there, he finds the woman's beaten and bloody body on the floor and as he is examining her, her attacker rushes him and then exits the house with Siggi chasing him. Siggi loses the race though and returns to get help for the woman who is still alive. Unfortunately, not for long. She dies in the hospital and it becomes a murder case.

In investigating the murder, the police discover a chance link that leads them to a group of those young tycoons, bankers who have made millions from the boom. But it turns out that one of them had died several months earlier under suspicious circumstances. Is all of this connected? Bet your kronurs it is!

There is a secondary plot, unrelated to all this, involving a man who was a victim of extreme sexual abuse as a child who has now, as a very damaged adult, encountered his abuser once again. This is a character that Erlendur and Sigurður had met in a previous book. In this case, we see that Sigurður may actually have a heart, after all. He does try in his own way to help the man. But it is too late. Maybe not too late though for Siggi.

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  1. This is proving to be an uneven series after all, Dorothy.

    1. Indeed. One never quite knows what she's going to get in each successive book.


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