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Updated on September 18, 2014

Detective Erlender Novels

Reykjavik was settled in about the year 870 by some distinctly odd characters. There seem to be some odd characters still there today, at least those I meet in fiction are highly peculiar.

One of these is Erlendur, chief homicide detective in Reykjavik or, I should say, he was a detective in Reykjavik. We don't know what happened to him. He walked out into the mountains at the end of the seventh book and no one has heard from him since.

It was Winter when he left and the last we see of Erlendur is shrouded, like much of Iceland, in the bitterly cold fog.

It's a mystery

Icelandic Names

The first thing I learned about Detective Erlendur Sveinsson was the mystery of his name. Sveinsson is not his family name but the patronymic, son of Svein. For Erlendur is an Icelander, he is known by just one name.

Picking up these bits and pieces about Iceland is part of the joy of the detective mysteries written by Arnaldur Indridason, sorry, I mean Arnaldur.

Erlendur Looks for the Lost

Erlendur is always looking for lost people. As a child, he lost his brother in a snowstorm, and he's still looking for him.

He lost his family too, leaving his wife and two small children for some unstated reason and both his son and daughter visit him solely, it seems, to make him feel guilty for this. Erlendur tries to help his drug-addicted daughter and alcoholic son but he can hardly even help himself.

He's a strange man, Erlendur, a misfit in the city, spending his Summers hiking the mountains where he last saw his small brother and his Winters locked in his apartment reading books about missing people in Iceland.

Now Erlendur is also lost. In those harsh mountains. Or so it appears.


Erlendur looks for Truth

Erlender is a guilt-ridden loner, a failure in his personal life, a man who constantly broods over his past.

He suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and constantly wonders how people had survived for hundreds of years in a country with such a harsh climate. It's a wonder sometimes how he can get himself out of his apartment.

But Erlendur is a Seeker of Truth and he sets out to find it despite all setbacks. The mysteries he unravels are totally gripping.

Author Arnaldur has created a man we can understand, feel for, and admire. We can walk in his shoes.

In his much-worn Norwegian sweater, Erlendur is a truly likeable character.

Jar City is now a Movie

Erlendur Novels in English

Jar City: A Reykjavi­k Thriller
Jar City: A Reykjavi­k Thriller

The first Erlendur published in English. (now on film) Also available for Kindle

Silence of the Grave (Reykjavik Murder Mysteries, No. 2)
Silence of the Grave (Reykjavik Murder Mysteries, No. 2)

A cold case (also literally cold) when human bones turn up at a construction site


Colleagues Sigurdur and Elinborg

Erlendur works with these two and the onscreen characters fit so well with my idea of them from the novels.

Sigurdur, darkly handsome, is a man who abhors messiness whether it's in peoples' jumbled murders or their slovenly kitchens, and Elinborg is harried by the demands of her family life. She's an excellent cook, and tracks down villains by the same process in which she concocts a new recipe. Each and every clue, like each ingredient, is weighed and tested.

Elinborg at her finest

Outrage: An Inspector Erlendur Novel (An Inspector Erlendur Series)
Outrage: An Inspector Erlendur Novel (An Inspector Erlendur Series)

Erlendur isn't in this novel, it's his colleague, Elinborg, who follows the twists and turns of the dark plot


Arnaldur, in the Tradition of Iceland

To write is ingrained in the Icelandic culture.

After all, that's what they did for more than a thousand years during the long dark winters. They told stories and they wrote down those stories, prose histories, unpretentious and unadorned. Stories of farmers and families, of warriors and kings, hotheads, fighters and fools. Real people.

And they still write down stories today. Roughly 20% of Icelanders are published authors.

Arnaldur is one of the foremost contemporary novelists in Iceland.

VJ Books

The Dark Background of Iceland

In all of these novels, you're constantly aware that you're in Iceland.

The dark plots match the darkness of the long nights, the landscape is a constant adversary and emotions run violently under chill facades, as does the water beneath the glacier,

How about you?

Have you read any Erlendur novels?

See results

© 2013 Susanna Duffy

Guestbook Comments

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Will Erlendur return from the mountains?

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Thanks! Another Nordic Noir

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Very dark, but not as dark as Wallander

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Ohhh... I love Nordic Noir, thanks for sharing another Author with me!

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      5 years ago from Canada

      His story is very interesting and it is little wonder that distinctive personality escapes within his writers. What a past to ponder on.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Reading Erlendur is like reading science fiction. He works in a closed world, with its own rules, it could be on another planet

    • lonnie-wakefield profile image


      5 years ago

      Dark and somewhat tragic...just my cup of tea!


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