Black Skies – Arnaldur Indriđason

11th October 2014

Like Outrage, Black Skies is an Detective Erlendur novel in which our beloved Icelandic detective is still posted missing; it is the turn of Sigurđur Óli to take the lead this time.  Unable to conceive, Sigurđur’s marriage to Bergortha has broken down, with his wife moving on to another man soon after the separation.  He is also growing disillusioned with life as a police officer, following a miserable school reunion where he is surrounded by the wealthy beneficiaries of Iceland’s booming economy.

He agrees somewhat foolishly to investigate the blackmail of a wife-swapping friend of a friend, and upon arriving at the blackmailer’s house, stumbles across a break-in and violent assault on the owner.  The woman later dies and Sigurđur’s position on the murder investigation is compromised when his colleague finds out he was at the scene acting on a personal favour.  Sigurđur must get to the bottom of the case, which means delving into the past where some dirty secrets are buried, amidst and influenced by the pre-crash economic boom in Iceland.

There is also another story on-going of a torture situation in a grubby basement flat, where a man called Andreas has tied up an older man, for past crimes for which he will ultimately be made to repent.  His relationship with Sigurđur brings out a more humane side in the detective who had seemed quite generic previously, as the historic reasons for Andreas’ anger are slowly revealed to the reader and the detective throughout the novel.

While Sigurđur throughout the course of this interesting novel comes into his own as a character, I cannot help but pine for Erlendur, as well as fear for his future in the series, moving forward in time at least.  The most recent English translation of Erlendur is Reykjavík Nights, which serves as a prequel to the entire series, set back when Erlendur was first starting out as a police officer.  The continued absence of Erlendur in the modern day, is becoming more ominous with each outing.

Rating: 4/5 stars