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The Shadow Killer


The Shadow Killer

I don’t reflexively reach for historical mysteries when I’m looking for something to read. However, I make an exception when the name “Arnaldur Indridason” is on the spine. Indridason attracted a great deal of attention with his Inspector Erlendur novels, which took place in the exotic (for those of us in the United States) setting of contemporary Reykjavik, Iceland. He recently switched tracks and started a new series set in the same geographical location but (mainly) against the backdrop of World War II. While THE SHADOW DISTRICT, the inaugural volume, bounced back and forth between the past and present, THE SHADOW KILLER remains firmly ensconced in 1941 and slowly enlarges some of the themes and characters introduced by its predecessor.

The primary plot of this second installment is driven by the discovery of a murder victim, an unsuccessful traveling salesman named Eyvindur. The body is found in the apartment belonging to Felix Lunden, a former childhood friend of Eyvindur. Felix has gone missing, as has Vera, Eyvindur’s girlfriend. Further complicating matters is the manner of death. The bullet that sent Eyvindur to his eternal reward is from a firearm commonly carried by the U.S. soldiers who are occupying Iceland in increasing numbers in order to protect the country from invasion by Nazi Germany. Felix and his father are Nazi sympathizers, which makes things even more interesting.

"It’s an intricate mystery with a number of moving parts, but Indridason’s deliberate narrative pace keeps an otherwise complex presentation from galloping away..."

Flovent, the sole detective in Reykjavik, is paired with Thorson, a Canadian military policeman of Icelandic descent who is tasked with solving the case due to the possible involvement of a member of the U.S. forces. The two men function as a team, but due to the complexity of the investigation (as well as the prickly relationship between the U.S. forces and the citizens of Reykjavik on a number of issues, including the attentions of the local women), they examine certain elements of the case separately.

Flovent and Thorson do not lack for suspects. Vera, a highly manipulative individual with a history of causing trouble wherever she goes, may have enlisted an American soldier to do in her boyfriend. Felix may have been the target of a blackmail scheme concocted by Eyvindur. There is also the possibility that Eyvindur was the victim of a case of mistaken identity, with the missing Felix being the real target. It’s an intricate mystery with a number of moving parts, but Indridason’s deliberate narrative pace keeps an otherwise complex presentation from galloping away as the various players ultimately get caught in their own juices, as it were, by story’s end.

This new series appears to be more plot-driven than the Erlendur novels. We do learn a bit about Thorsen in THE SHADOW KILLER, and perhaps Indridason (with the able assistance of translator Victoria Cribb) will explore the backgrounds and personalities of both men in future volumes. In the meantime, the complex elements created by the U.S. presence in Iceland during World War II will undoubtedly provide plenty of grist for upcoming stories.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on June 8, 2018

The Shadow Killer
by Arnaldur Indridason