Review: The Draining Lake, by Arnaldur Indridason


Esta reseña es bilingüe. Para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

Translated from the Icelandic by Bernard Scudder. Original title: Kleifarvatn, 2004. First published in Great Britain in 2007 by Harvill Secker. Kindle Edition Vintage Digital (27 May 2009). 468 KB. ASIN: B0031RS7H2.

The Draining Lake is the sixth instalment in the Reykjavik Murder Mysteries, but it’s only the fourth one translated in the series. The first two books have not been published in English yet. The title refers to a real event happened in 2000. The water level of lake Kleifarvatn dropped suddenly following an earthquake. This fact serves Arnaldur to develop a plot around a skeleton found stranded on the sand at the bottom of the lake. The skull with a large hole, was fastened to a heavy communication device with Cyrillic characters and it had been there about thirty years. Detective Erlendur and his colleagues Elinborg and Sigurdur Oli are summoned to investigate. The investigation focuses on missing persons between 1965 and 1975. A particular case calls Erlandur’s attention. The story of a woman who is waiting for her man since 1973. They were living together and had decided to go to the registry. One day the man never returned. Only his car, a Ford Falcon, was found abandoned without one of its hubcaps.

Meanwhile, another story unfolds in parallel taking the reader to Leipzig at that time in the German Democratic Republic, during the early 50s. At the beginning of the Cold War a group of young socialist from Iceland have arrived to the University with a scholarship. And we will become witnesses of their first love experiences and their first impressions of the so-called ‘communist paradise’. Eventually the different stories end up being related, but not before taking some unexpected turns.

Regular readers will find a new chapter in the troublesome relationship that Erlendur keeps with his children and the start of what might become a new relationship in his life. Sigurdur Oli will receive unexpected phone calls from someone with psychological problems and Elinborg will publish a cookbook.

The Draining Lake offers a reflection about the absence and the loss of someone who has a special meaning in our lives. Particularly when that loss is unexpected in which case we can develop a sense of guilt for what we could have done differently. Despite being a sad and gloomy story we can find some humour in its pages: 

‘Where is it? ‘
‘Lake Kleifarvatn. North side. ‘
‘Did you pull it up in a fishing net?’
‘No. It’s buried on the bed of the lake. ‘
‘Are you a diver?’
‘No it’s standing up out of the bed. Ribs and the skull.’
‘It’s on the bottom of the lake?’
‘Yes.’
‘So how can you see it?’
‘I’m standing here looking at it.’
‘Did you bring it to dry land?’
‘No, I have not touched it,’ she lied instinctively.
The voice on the telephone paused.
‘What kind of crap is this?’ the voice said at last, angrily. ‘Is this a hoax? You know what you can get for wasting our time?’
‘It’s not a hoax. I’m standing here looking at it.’
‘So you can walk on water, I suppose?’
‘The lake’s gone,’ she said. ‘There’s no water any more. Just the bed. Where the skeleton is. ‘
‘What do you mean, the lake’s gone?’

I just need to add that Arnaldur, one of my favourite writers, is a superb storyteller, able to make the reader feel all sorts of emotions. The Draining Lake is certainly among his best books together with Silence of the Grave, Voices and Hypothermia. A fantastic read, highly recommended.

My rating: 5/5.

The Draining Lake has been reviewed by Ali Karim at January Magazine, Maxine at Euro Crime, Michael Carlson at Irresistible Targets, Naomi Johnson at The Drowning Machine, Keishon at Yet Another Crime Fiction Blog, kimbofo at Reading Matters, at Mrs. Peabody Investigates, Laura Root at Euro Crime, Sharon Wheeler at Reviewing the evidence, Yvonne Klein at Reviewing the evidence, Mary Whipple at Seeing the World through Books,


El hombre del lago de Arnaldur Indridason

El hombre del lago es la sexta entrega de los misteriosos asesinatos de Reykjavik, pero es sólo la cuarta traducida de la serie. Los dos primeros libros no han sido publicados todavía en castellano. El título hace referencia a un hecho real ocurrido en el año 2000. El nivel del agua del lago Kleifarvatn descendió rápidamente después de un terremoto. Este hecho le sirve a Arnaldur para desarrollar una trama en torno a un esqueleto que se encontró varado en la arena al fondo del lago. El cráneo con un agujero grande, estaba atado a un pesado dispositivo de comunicación con caracteres cirílicos y llevaba allí unos treinta años. El detective Erlendur y sus compañeros Elinborg y Sigurdur Oli son llamados para investigar el caso. La investigación se centra en las personas desaparecidas entre el 1965 y el 1975. Un caso en particular llama la atención de Erlandur. La historia de una mujer que está esperando a su hombre desde 1973. Ellos vivían juntos y había decidido ir al registro. Un día el hombre nunca regresó. Sólo su coche, un Ford Falcon, fue encontrado abandonado, sin uno de los tapacubos.

Mientras tanto, otra historia se desarrolla en paralelo trasladando al lector a Leipzig en ese momento en la República Democrática Alemana, durante los primeros años 50. Al comienzo de la Guerra Fría un grupo de jóvenes socialistas de Islandia han llegado a la Universidad con una beca. Y vamos a ser testigos de sus primeras experiencias amorosas y de sus primeras impresiones sobre el llamado “paraíso comunista”. Finalmente, las diferentes historias terminan estando relacionadas, no sin antes tomar algunos giros inesperados.

Los lectores habituales encontrarán un nuevo capítulo en la problemática relación que mantiene Erlendur con sus hijos y el inicio de lo que podría convertirse en una nueva relación sentimental en su vida. Sigurdur Oli, recibirá llamadas telefónicas inesperadas de alguien con problemas psicológicos y Elinborg publicará un libro de cocina.

El hombre del lago nos ofrece una reflexión sobre la ausencia y la pérdida de alguien que tiene un significado especial en nuestras vidas. En particular, cuando esa pérdida es inesperada, en cuyo caso se puede desarrollar un sentido de culpa por lo que podríamos haber hecho de manera diferente. A pesar de ser una historia triste y sombría nos podemos encontrar con algo de humor en sus páginas.

—¿Y dónde estás?
—En el lago Kleifarvatn. En la parte norte.
—¿Lo sacaste en una red?
—No. Está enterrado en el fondo del lago.
—¿Estabas buceando?
—No. Sobresale directamente del fondo. Las costillas y el cráneo.
—¿Y está en el fondo?
—Sí.
—¿Y cómo puedes verlo, entonces?
—Porque estoy aquí, mirándolo.
—¿Lo has llevado a tierra?
—No, no lo he tocado —mintió sin querer.
Se produjo un silencio en el teléfono.
—¡No vengas con gilipolleces! —dijo la voz, que había acabado por enfadarse—. ¿Es una broma? ¿Sabes lo que te puede costar una llamada graciosa como ésta?
—No se trata de ninguna broma. Estoy aquí viendo el esqueleto.
—¿Qué pasa, que puedes caminar sobre el lago?
—El lago ha desaparecido. Ya no hay agua. Sólo está el fondo. Es ahí donde se encuentra el esqueleto.
—¿Qué quiere decir que el agua ha desaparecido?

(Traducción encontrada en Internet)

Sólo tengo que añadir que Arnaldur, uno de mis escritores favoritos, es un narrador excelente, capaz de hacer sentir al lector todo tipo de sentimientos. El hombre del lago está, sin duda entre sus mejores libros junto con La mujer de verde (aka Silencio sepulcral), La Voz e Hipotermia. Una lectura fantástica, muy recomendable.

Mi calificación: 5/5.

12 thoughts on “Review: The Draining Lake, by Arnaldur Indridason”

  1. José Ignacio – An excellent review of an excellent book in an excellent series. I’m happy to read that you enjoyed the book. I’m especially glad you mention the humour in this one because the Erlendur series does have little threads of humour woven into the stories. They are wry observations on life and they do add to the plots.

  2. Thanks for the link Jose! This author so far has been strong and consistent. I’m actually at Hypothermia and had started it but had to put it aside as it was just too dark (and too close to home) at the time when I was going through some personal issues of my own a few weeks back. I plan to pick it up again.

    1. I’m really sorry to hear that Keishon. It should be better to put it aside as you said, You’ll always have time to pick it up at a later stage. Somehow we’ve all had experiences similar to those portrayed by Arnaldur, quite amazing.

  3. Jose Ignacio: It sounds great. I am well behind in the series and trying to decide whether to try and catch up or skip to the most recent or make it a series I have enjoyed but will not make a priority.

    1. Bill I did skipped some and I’m catching up with now, no major problem. Besides the next one to be published soon I’ve only left Arctic Chill to read next and the first two that have not been translated.

  4. Great review, Jose Ignacio. I think this is my favourite of the series (or one of them), partly for the humour you mention (eg the fun at the expense of the Americans in their embassy), partly for the sad but involving Leipzig/1950s parts, and partly for the plot/characters of the police team. I think that if you were going to recommend someone to a crime fiction book if they’d never read one before, this would be a good novel to select!
    I agree with Keishon that Arctic Chill and Hypothermia, which come after this one, are much darker, as well as being as sad. Outrage (the currently most-recent) is less dark, I think.

    1. Thanks Maxine. You are right there are other excellent examples of humour. I love the police team characters, all very different. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

  5. Thanks for the great review (am trying to read the Spanish version now for fun! The Man of/in the Lake?). I’m so pleased that you liked this one – I think it’s my favourite of all the Erlendur novels thus far, probably because of the GDR connection and how well the political atmosphere of the time is captured. Another strength for me is how we come to understand the motivations for the crime: a very sensitive and moving portrait of the murderer.

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