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The Shadow District by Arnaldur Indriðason


In wartime Reykjavik, a young woman is found strangled behind the National Theatre, a rough and dangerous area of the city known as ‘the shadow district’. An Icelandic detective and a member of the American military police are on the trail of a brutal killer.


A 90-year-old man is discovered dead on his bed, smothered with his own pillow. Konrad, a former detective now bored with retirement, finds newspaper cuttings in the dead man’s home reporting the shadow district murder that date back to the second world war. It’s a crime that Konrad remembers, having grown up in the same neighbourhood.


Why, after all this time, would an old crime resurface? Did the police arrest the wrong man? How are these cases linked across the decades? Will Konrad’s link to the past help him solve the case and finally lay the ghosts of wartime Reykjavik to rest?

It has been a while since I have read any crime. In fact, I’ve checked and I haven’t read or reviewed any so far in 2017. Time to remedy that oversight. Over the last couple of years, I’ve developed a taste for the occasional crime thriller and I like to include some in my schedule from time to time. A man can’t live on horror, fantasy and sci-fi alone you know. Sometimes you need to mix things up a little.

The latest crime novel to capture my interest is The Shadow District by Arnaldur Indriðason. The novel has a plot split over two distinct time periods. The first strand details a murder during the latter days of the Second World War. Another murder, taking place in the present day, appears to have some sort of connection to the first. The big question is how exactly are these two unsolved crimes, over seventy years apart, linked to one another?

Though separated by many years the investigators tasked with finding answers, Stefan and Konrad respectively, both share the same tenacious attitude towards their work. Each man steadfastly refuses to let a case go until they have uncovered the truth to their complete satisfaction. Watching how the nature of the crimes changes both men is fascinating. Neither man ever dreamed of being a detective but both have a natural curiosity and attention to detail that make them perfect for the role. Watching how they work from different directions, but eventually converge towards similar conclusions, is very well handled. The chapters set during the war are particularly effective as they give the author the opportunity to explore how attitudes to crime, sexuality and feminism were markedly different decades ago. Indriðason’s use of the political landscape and genuine attitudes towards foreign soldiers stationed in Iceland gives the story an added air of authenticity.

I’ve managed to find the perfect musical recommendation to accompany The Shadow District. Not only is Broadchurch The Final Chapter crime related but it is also composed by an Icelandic musician, Ólafur Arnalds. I certainly found it a nice fit with the overall tone of the novel.

The Shadow District was originally published in Iceland under the title Skuggasund in 2013, and has now been translated by Victoria Cribb. As far as I can tell, the transfer appears flawless. The narrative flows smoothly and ensures that the reader is never confused or abruptly jarred from the action. I’ve had that issue in the past with works originally published in another language, but that is not the case in this instance.

I’ve not read any of Arnaldur Indriðason’s other novels but a quick Internet search reveals the author to be quite prolific. Based on my experience with The Shadow District, I would certainly be interested to read more of his work. If you are looking for a crime thriller that spans generations and keeps you guessing right up until the final pages, then I would certainly suggest that Indriðason’s latest is worth a try. This is solidly entertaining fiction worthy of your time.

The Shadow District is published by Harvill Secker and is available now.

The Shadow District

New From: £7.59 GBP In Stock

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