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by Arnaldur Indridason
St Martin's Minotaur, October 2007
320 pages
ISBN: 0312358717

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Inspector Erlandur Sveinsson is called to an exclusive hotel in Reykjavik where the body of a man, dressed as Santa Claus, is found under strange circumstances in a basement room.

The man, Guedlaugur (Gulli), had been living in that room for 20 years or more, acting as doorman and repairman at the hotel, and, for the last few years, also as Santa for the children of the guests. His body was discovered by 20-something chambermaid Osp. His pants were down, he was wearing a condom and he had a knife wound in his chest which caused his death.

As Erlandur, Sigurdur Oli, and Elinborg start the investigation, it appears that although Gulli had worked in the hotel for something over 20 years, no one really knew him. Apparently, a former manager had allowed him to stay in the former storage closet in the basement when he lost his flat, and then it was just forgotten that he was there. It was a strange, lonely existence.

Erlandur inexplicably moves into the hotel during the week before Christmas. No one can figure out why. But he stays and runs the investigation from his cold room. Eva Lind, the daughter from whom he had been estranged for many years, also visits him.

Erlandur is a melancholy figure. There aren't too many murders in Iceland, but he always wonders what causes one person to injure another. His children have been estranged from him since he divorced his wife when they were children and only his drug-addicted daughter comes to visit him.

The team finally uncovers Gulli's life and find another melancholy tale, but not before Sigurdur Oli and Elinborg's normal preparations for Christmas are disrupted by the mystery.

Indridason is a CWA Gold Dagger Award winner for good reason. His characters are fully drawn and although we don't get street by street descriptions of Iceland's capital, we do feel the strangeness of this island nation. Ever since Surtsey erupted from the sea bed in 1963, I have wanted to visit Iceland, which lies along the mid-Atlantic ridge. These books do not change my mind.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, October 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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