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Silence of the Grave: A Reyjavik Murder Mystery    by Arnaldur Indridason order for
Silence of the Grave
by Arnaldur Indrišason
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2006 (2005)
Hardcover, Softcover
* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

If you have not yet been introduced to Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson, I have a question for you. What on earth are you waiting for?

Erlendur, a fifty-year old veteran Reykjavik police detective is the fascinating creation of Arnaldur Indrišason, the Icelandic writer who I am convinced is contemporary crime fiction's most exciting new author. Erlendur is now appearing in the second of Indrišason's novels to appear in American editions. The first was the thoroughly riveting Jar City. Now, Silence of the Grave has finally arrived in the American market - having first been published in Iceland in 2002 - and I am telling everyone I know that they should run as quickly as possible to their bookstores to get their hands on their copies of this powerful, disturbing, and erudite mystery.

Erlendur, a man with a remarkable career as a police detective but also a man with a rather badly tattered personal life, knows that serious crimes, especially murders, have been rare in Iceland. He also knows that his once isolated island nation has been constantly evolving into a more modern European country. However, as Erlendur sees it, modernity does not necessarily mean improvement. And so with the crime rate rising, Erlendur has become increasingly busy as one of Reykjavik's most tenacious police detectives.

It is the end of April, and Erlendur - like other Icelanders - should be enjoying the beautiful spring weather, which comes each year as an eagerly embraced relief from the long, dark sub-arctic winter. Erlendur, though, is suddenly confronted by one of his most challenging cases. Long-buried bones have been found at a suburban construction site. At first, investigators think that the bones might belong to someone who had been lost hundreds of years ago during one of Iceland's typically vicious winter blizzards. Additional evidence, though, soon points to something more sinister that may have happened slightly more than 50 or 60 years earlier. And - making the case even more of an enigma - the bones belong to more than one body.

With very few clues in this cold case, Erlendur - intuitive and obstinate - focuses on a few things in addition to the bones, which may - because of their DNA - yield very important information: first, Erlendur wonders about the nearby red currant bushes, which seem curiously out-of-place in this suburban neighborhood of Reykjavik, and then he is also intrigued by reports of a crooked-looking woman dressed in green who had been seen near what has now been determined to be a probable crime scene.

The investigation will take Erlendur back through Reykjavik's war years - when British and American troops occupied this northern Atlantic country during World War II - and into the horrifying personal history of those whose lives of deep sorrows and dangerous secrets were destroyed by violence and shame. At the same time, Erlendur must confront what will be the most difficult challenge of his personal life: his daughter's desperate fight-for-life, his son's aloof indifference, and his ex-wife's virulent hostility.

Silence of the Grave is astonishing, profound, irresistible, and - without a doubt - the year's most remarkable mystery novel. Read it and you will almost certainly hurry also to get a copy of Jar City. Then, when you have read and enjoyed both of Indrišason's captivating and compelling novels, you will simply have to wait patiently for the American release of other Indrišason novels (two of which are already scheduled for publication by St. Martin's in the next year - or so they promise!)

Finally, I would add one more comment: I wish there were an available BookLoons rating that is higher than a 3 because Silence of the Grave - quite frankly - deserves to be ranked higher than any other mystery I have read in the past year! Yes, it is that good!

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