Review: The Draining Lake by Arnaldur Indridason (Vintage)

Title: The Draining Lake
Author: Arnaldur Indridason
Publisher: Vintage
Published: 7 August 2008
Review Copy


A skeleton is exposed in a drying out lake. The skeleton has an old Russian listening device tied to it. This leads detective Erledur with Elinborg and Siguraur Oli into an investigation into the cold war and what happens to those that are left behind.


I really should read more crime stories, especially if they are anything like The Draining Lake.  Indridason mixes the past and present easily and the effect is quite powerful as you trace the story of the murderer from the events that led to the crime and the solving of the crime itself. This isn’t a fast paced thriller. It’s more reflective and lives up to its tag line of, ‘What Happens to those Left Behind?’ especially when we visit the relatives left behind when people go missing.

The process of detection keeps you reading as Erledur’s obsessions with small details leads to some interesting places. We get to find out about Erledur’s complicated relationships with his son and daughter, his work colleagues, and a woman who hasn’t left her husband.

I enjoyed the mix of flashbacks and present day. In some ways the flashbacks were more insightful as they explored the characters involved in more detail as Erledur is left a bit more of a mystery from beginning to end. Though this could be that this is a part of series and more would be revealed in reading the other books. Not that this spoiled anything as it seems part of his character to be aloof.

It was a bit of a slow read as I’m a little rusty when reading books in translation especially when it came to the names of characters and it took a while to grasp who was who and if they were male or female. The other quirk is some of the more emotional angry scenes that had swearing in them didn’t quite ring true though this is more a quirk in the language/translation rather than something that ruins the scene.

The strongest point for me was not only seeing another country, Iceland, but also getting a small insight into the cold war and its affect.


The Draining Lake is a reflective and strong crime novel with a clever and thought provoking use of flashbacks, which takes the reader on a journey of a crime from both sides. It also keeps you guessing about who the person in the lake actually is and who killed them. Highly recommended. I’m looking forward to catching up with Erledur’s next investigation.


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