Reading List: Silence of the Grave (Grafarþögn) by Arnaldur Indriđason

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Silence of the Grave

Even in Iceland, where a man can set off into the wilderness and never return, and nobody asks too many questions, the past has a habit of coming back to haunt the present. And so, when new housing is being built to satisfy a booming and ravenous Reykjavik, a skeletal hand is uncovered, reaching out in desperation.

I found this slow going at first, but eventually the intertwined stories wrapped themselves around me and I was hooked. The central story was gripping, and even if the outcome was predictable there was some gratification to be found in a denouement as bleak and yet fiery at the country itself. It’s particularly satisfying to read about a country so very different from those generally found in English language fiction, and I’ll be looking for more of this author’s work.

This book won the CWA Gold Dagger. Talent not writing in English doesn’t get much exposure in British bookshops, which is shameful. Awards like the Gold Dagger play an important part in getting exposure for a wonderful writer who would otherwise go unnoticed. Or they did: this was the last such book to win the Gold Dagger before the sponsors decreed that the award was to be for work written originally in English. This kind of insularity is, frankly, a disgrace.

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