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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Arnaldur Indriðason

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To purchase Voices

Title: Voices
Author: Arnaldur Indriðason
Genre: Novel
Written: 2003 (Eng. 2006)
Length: 313 pages
Original in: Icelandic
Availability: Voices - US
Voices - UK
Voices - Canada
La voix - France
Engelsstimme - Deutschland
  • Icelandic title: Röddin
  • Translated by Bernard Scudder

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Our Assessment:

B : atmospheric if a bit glum

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Independent . 23/8/2006 Jane Jakeman
London Rev. of Books . 17/8/2006 Christopher Tayler

  From the Reviews:
  • "The plot is not innovative, nor very credible: the solution to the Santa mystery dates back to Gaston Leroux's 1907 thriller, The Mystery of the Yellow Room. But Indridason reaches extraordinary psychological depths. "A sad tale's best for winter," said little Maximilian in The Winter's Tale. Indeed, but this outstanding specimen is a good one for late-summer reading too." - Jane Jakeman, The Independent

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Voices is set around Christmas, and centres around the murder of Gudlaugur, known as Gulli, the doorman at a big Reykjavík hotel who also does a lot of odd jobs around the place. He was set to appear as Santa Claus at a hotel Christmas ball, but when they went down to the small room where he lived they found him dead. Not only dead but:

His trousers were down round his ankles. A condom hung from his penis.
       Inspector Erlendur is on the case. He is hardly in the Christmas spirit, so much so that he doesn't even want to go to his empty home: at the end of the day he just takes a room in the hotel and winds up staying there until the investigation is completed, which allows Indriðason to keep almost all the action on-site.
       The book is as much about Erlendur as the case. Like most everyone, he has family issues: he got divorced ages ago, and his kids still can't understand how he could abandon them. Now his daughter, Eva Lind, recovering from a drug addiction and her tragic late-term miscarriage, is sniffing around him, coming to visit in the hotel (when she doesn't get kicked out my management, who take her for a prostitute). Father and daughter have a peculiar relationship which would be hard to describe as loving, but Erlendur does admire Eva's directness, and there seems to be a bit of mutual dependency developing there; certainly she likes being around him, at least for short bursts (and very much on her own terms).
       Erlendur also takes some tentative steps to possibly having a relationship with a woman again -- though Eva doesn't like that one bit. Erlendur makes it hard on himself, too, as he is also carrying around quite a bit of baggage, including some which explains his answer while on a date, when the woman asks him what he likes to read:
     'About deaths and ordeals,' he said. 'Death in the mountains. People who freeze to death outdoors. There are a whole series of books about that. Used to be popular, once.'
       Ah, yes, those jolly Icelanders -- though what's really worrying here isn't his obsession (which turns out to be well-founded) but the idea that this was once a popular genre.
       In addition, besides the main investigation, focussed on Gudlaugur's death, there's a second crime that's being pieced together in the background, a boy who was brutally beaten, with all indications being that it was his father who was responsible. Yes, there are few families here that are in any way whole: Gudlaugur, too, lived a solitary life in the tiny room in the hotel, apparently with no contact to his sister or wheelchair-bound father.
       The investigation proceeds by several turns, as it turns out that Gudlaugur has a past: decades earlier he was a boy prodigy, with the most beautiful of singing voices. Only two recording were made, and they're incredibly valuable now -- so much so that a collector has come to buy copies from Gudlaugur, a collector with his own dirty little secrets. Then there are the family issues Gudlaugur has, which, along with some of the evidence, suggests his father and sister might have had something to do with what happened.
       It's a matter of slowly putting the pieces together, and Indriðason spins all that out fairly nicely -- but really it's the background-atmosphere (including the hotel staff) and Erlendur's fumbling around with his own personal life that make the book. One other appealing aspect is that here, for once, is a police procedural where characters not only lie to the police but basically show them very little respect. Erlendur has the patience to get to the bottom of things, but meanwhile there's fairly little respect for or deference to law enforcement (or the murder victim).
       Voices is a solid novel, though really just a slower chapter or episode that's part of a series, sustained by the strong and interesting main character, whom readers learn a little bit more about here.

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Voices: Reviews: Arnaldur Indriðason: Other books by Arnaldur Indriðason under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Icelandic author Arnaldur Indriðason was born in 1961.

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© 2008 the complete review

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