Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indriđason

Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indriđason
Translated by Bernard Scudder
Picador, 2005 (originally published in 2002)
Mystery; 293 pgs

Completed: 11/26/2007
Rating: * (Very Good)

First Sentence: He knew at once it was a human bone, when he took it from the baby who was sitting on the floor chewing it.

Reason for Reading: I was drawn to this book when I first came across the listing of books for review by the website Curled Up With A Good Book. I had not realized it was the second in the series, but I quickly remedied that by searching out the first book, which I reviewed late last month.

Comments: Arnaldur Iridiđason's follow up to his first novel, Jar City, is gripping and emotionally charged. Silence of the Grave touches on subject matter that will pull at the heartstrings, stir up anger, and leave behind a sense of sadness and yet, at the same time, proves to be quite satisfying.

A young boy discovers a bone while playing in an unfinished hillside housing development. His mother is stunned. A fifth year medical student confirms that the bone is a human remain and the police are called out. Inspectors Elínborg and Olí are quick to the scene, followed closely by Inspector Erlendur. Determining that it would be best to handle the scene with care, Olí calls upon an archaeologist to assess the situation and soon a team quickly converges on the scene commence an excavation. The three inspectors are faced with a lot of unanswered questions, and because of the age and lack of information about a possible crime having bee committed, the three are on their own. The bones appear to be several decades old, but the gender and identity remain unknown. There is little doubt that the victim buried in the earth had met with foul play; however, the reasons and exact cause behind the death are not yet known.

As the investigation gets underway, Erlendur is fighting his own personal demons. A panicked call from his estranged daughter forces him to seek her out. He must enter into her world and learn things about her he wished he did not have to know. His search also forces him to look into his own past and the choices he made all those years ago. His doubts and fear surface, and he must decide whether he is ready to face them.

Woven throughout the unfolding investigation is the story of a mother who longs for a good father for her child and instead enters into a nightmare, one that will have a lasting impact on the entire family. It becomes a game of survival both for her and her children. They live in fear everyday.

Although the novel opens with the merriment of a child’s birthday party, it soon spirals down into a much darker place. Violence and shame mark the lives of many of the characters in the author's second book. Arnaldur Iridiđason does not shy away from the intensity of the violence, although he does so in a way that is not heavy handed. Iridiđason is a master at crafting his characters, maintaining a little mystery while at the same time slowly opening a window into their souls. The author captures the emotional terror, pain and doubt his characters endure.

The novel could be set anywhere; the problems and issues that arise in Arnaldur Iridiđason’s book cross all borders. Domestic violence, child abuse and drug use have a profound affect on those it touches, physically and psychologically. Even today, people choose to look away not wanting to get involved or step in to help. And yet, Iceland is the perfect setting with its expansive landscape and ever growing population as it struggles with a myriad of social issues that reveal the out of the shady side of a remarkable culture.

Silence of the Grave is a compelling mystery that carries the reader into the ugly underbelly of Reykjavík and into the countryside with its darkest secrets during a long ago war. The author’s characterizations bring the book to life and make it all the more real. Arnaldur Iridiđason has written a poignant tale that will get under the reader’s skin and leave him or her wanting more. Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Wendy Runyon, 2007

Miscellaneous: The fourth season of The Wire is out on DVD and Anjin and I have already dived in. It's only the best TV shows ever made. We even recently subscribed to HBO so we could finally watch a season when it first airs. And wouldn't you know it, it's the last season. Always my luck.

It has been a rough week in more ways than one. I will not bore you with details, but suffice it to say I am very much looking forward to this weekend. I just have to make it through tomorrow . . .


  1. I have this on my list to read next year - I'm going to try mysteries from around the world. Thanks for the review, I'm looking forward to reading it.

    Have a good day tomorrow?! Get through it, anyway.

  2. This sounds like yet another one I need to add to my list. You know, the neverending one...

    Sorry to hear things are rough. I'll keep good thoughts for you, especially tomorrow!


  3. I hope you will enjoy this one, Elizabeth! It's a good series.

    And thank you for the good thoughts for tomorrow. I'm thinking positive. And counting down until Friday. :-)

    CJ - It's a good series. This second book gets a little more personal than the first one in the series, but I didn't mind that.

    Thank you too for the good thoughts!

  4. This one sounds interesting!
    This week isn't good to me either, especially when my daughter is sick and she's in a cranky mood. Hope you have a great day tomorrow...weekend's coming soon!!!

  5. Santa might be bringing me JAR CITY in my stocking this year, and I'm eager to read it.

    And thrilled that you've discovered THE WIRE. Love it. It's just so SMART. Best cop show ever on TV.

  6. I enjoyed this book as well. I hope things are all right with you. Take care, OK?

  7. Hope everything gets better soon!

    Was I the only one that got the creeps from that first sentence?

  8. I hope everything gets better soon. Just think of the weekend :)
    I liked this novel a lot too but I think I liked Jar City better. I'm hoping my library gets Voices (the third book) soon.

  9. I've got this one on my list too.

    Hope the weekend gets here like a flash! For the both of us.

  10. Isn't curledup the best?

    Hey, you won a book over at my blog! :)

  11. Hi Wendy! Congrats on winning a book at Dewey's blog!

    BTW, I have received your card. Thank you so much! :)

  12. Melody - I am sorry to hear your daughter is sick. :-( I hope she is feeling better soon.

    And thank you for the congratulations! I'm so happy!

    Glad you got the card. It made really good time!

    Karen - Oh goody! I hope you will enjoy it. I think Jar City is probably more up your alley than this second one from what you've told me, but you may like this one as well. :-)

    I wish I knew more people who watched The Wire. My husband and I can only point out what we love about the show to each other so many times before it gets old. Haha

    Jaimie - Thanks. Everything is okay--it's just been one of those weeks. My weekend can finally begin and so things are looking up already!

    Jen - Thank you! The first sentence for this one is a bit creepy, yes. It sure grabbed my attention from the start.

    Iliana - Thanks so much. I am not sure which of the two I liked better. They were both so different, I thought. Jar City was much more focused on the mystery whereas this one was more personal. I've got Voices on my Christmas list this year. I'm looking forward to reading that one.

    Carrie K - It's a good one, Carrie! I am so glad I can start my weekend finally. I hope you have a good one!

    Dewey - Curledup is a great site. :-) And thank you! I noticed I won this morning, but I was running late and couldn't get my address to you. I'll do that for sure tonight. I'm so excited that I won! Yippee! A great way to end a tough week. :-)

  13. I still need to read Jar City...but glad you liked this one. I've heard good things about Jar City as well. I love that cover by the way. Very creepy.

  14. Danielle - I enjoyed Jar City and hope you will too! The cover is creepy, isn't it? Fitting too.

  15. Both this and Jar City are terrific books. I can't wait for Voices!

  16. I'm looking forward to reading that one too, Deborah. :-)


Thank you for taking the time to visit Musings of a Bookish Kitty. Don't be shy! I would love to hear from you. Due to a recent increase in spam, I will be moderating all comments for the foreseeable future. Please be patient with me as it may take a few hours before I am able to approve your comment.