Book Review: “Into Oblivion” by Arnaldur Indridason

This book was originally published in 2014 and was translated from Icelandic by Victoria Cribb in 2015.  The U.S. version was published in 2016.

The book is described as an Icelandic Thriller, however, I would say it is more an Icelandic Detective novel.  Detective Erlendur Sveinsson and his partner, Marion, investigate the death of a young man whose body was found in a lava pond near a power plant.  At first, the man is thought to be an American because of his clothing.  Later, they learn that he’s Icelandic when his sister reports him missing.  They know little about the cause of death–he fell from a high place onto a hard surface.  A fall from an airplane may explain it, but didn’t make any sense.  And the pond doesn’t have any high surfaces around it.  One explanation lies on the American military installation located close by, but they have to get permission from the U.S. government to proceed.  The U.S. government allows limited access and assigns a young MP to help them.  Even with help, the process is difficult and slow.  This gives Erlendur time to research a cold case.  Twenty-five years ago, a young woman disappeared without a trace near an old American outpost called Camp Knox.  His progress is slow on this case as well, but with dogged determination, he proceeds.

Although there is a hint that both cases could be related, they aren’t.  The only thing in common is the presence of the American installation on Icelandic soil.  The cases are solved using the instincts of experienced detectives who push hard to find answers.  I figured out the solutions so there were no great surprises.  It did give me an interesting perspective of our overseas installations, however.  The Icelandic view is not hostile, but not enthusiastic either.  They’d like to have their land back and in a sense, I can’t blame them.

I’m not sure if the title was a direct translation from Icelandic.  I like it but not for this book.  It didn’t seem to fit.  In addition, I don’t think the author was too familiar with U.S. military branches or ranks or may have gotten them confused.  That happens.  For instance, none of the military personnel in this story were in the Navy, in spite of this taking place on a Naval installation.  Also, the young MP working with the detectives didn’t know the Air Force Colonel in charge of base security and addressed him improperly.  And she never would have slapped a junior service member, no matter how much she would have liked to.  There were other discrepancies as well, but I got the gist of what the author was portraying.  The case was solved in spite of it.

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