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by Arnaldur Indriðason and Anna Yates, trans.
Random House Canada, July 2011
288 pages
$29.95 CAD
ISBN: 0307359417

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

OUTRAGE is well-titled. A young man heads off to the clubs and looks about for someone to pick up. A few hours later, he is dead, his throat cut, his trousers down around his ankles and wearing no underwear. But he is sporting a woman's tee shirt with the words San Francisco and a flower stencilled on it. His living room is drenched in blood. It is quite enough to put police inspector Elínborg off her planned rare steak supper. Further investigation reveals that his name is Runólfur, he works as a repairman for a telecom company, and his pockets and flat are full of Rohypnol, commonly called the date-rape drug.

Elínborg heads up the investigation, as her boss, Erlendur, is off on a mysterious journey "to the east," and is completely out of contact with the Reykjavik police. Where Erlendur is difficult, cranky, and elusive, Elínborg is brisk and straightforward. She rolls up her sleeves and sets to work to catch the killer and her commonsense approach fairly quickly leads her astray. She does have one extremely useful asset in a detective - a remarkably sensitive nose. This is not a metaphoric nose, mind you, but an acute sense of smell that leads her in the direction of possible suspects.

One suspects that Arnaldur has got a bit tired of his series hero, Inspector Erlendur. He is absent here and rarely thought of, curiously enough. When he is evoked, it is as a man caught between the past and the present, traditional Iceland and the new, Europeanized, international urban scene. He is remembered for his fondness for traditional Icelandic cuisine; Elínborg not only cooks beef steaks, but tandoori chicken, and has produced a modern recipe book.

Sadly, in Elínborg's capable hands, the series loses a great deal of its appeal. OUTRAGE is a fairly conventional police procedural, singular only in the amount of time the police are able to devote to this case, not surprising since Iceland can on occasion go an entire year without a murder. We are directly told far too much about every character and in prose that plods along in a succession of declarative sentences, as blunt as Elínborg herself. I do not remember previous entries in the series being quite so leaden. Whether this is the result of a new translator or is intended to reflect the new main character is impossible to say. Regardless, OUTRAGE is a surprisingly tedious read.

This novel is the seventh to appear in English though it is the ninth in the series. It first appeared in 2008 and two more await translation. Number ten apparently centres on another of the detectives, Sigurdur Óli, but number eleven (Furðustrandir , 2010) unless I am mistaken, sees Erlendur return. I do hope so.

§ Yvonne Klein is a writer, translator, and retired college English professor who lives in Montreal.

Reviewed by Yvonne Klein, August 2011

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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