My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When I last checked in on Arnaldur Indriðason's Icelandic detective series featuring Inspector Erlendur, I was so irritated with his main character that I swore off him for a while and considered making it permanent. But then... I had this book on my Kindle and in the interest of clearing my reading queue, I decided to read it. I'm glad I did.
The best thing about the book is that Erlendur doesn't appear in it! That dour, surly, and grim police detective who gives gruff, austere Scandinavian police detectives like Wallander and Hole a bad name, is truly one of the most completely unlikable main characters I've encountered in detective fiction. So, it was a relief not to have to deal with him this time.
We find that Erlendur has gone off on leave, apparently chasing the ghosts that haunt his life, and, instead, we have his colleague Elinborg heading up the investigations.
Now, Elinborg is just about the polar opposite of Erlendur. First of all, she's a woman. She has a stable domestic partnership with her husband and they have three children together. We also learn that they were foster parents to her husband's nephew who has now moved out to be with his natural father. His departure has caused a certain amount of drama since their older son was very close to the boy and he blames his parents for his departure.
Elinborg is a talented amateur chef. In fact, she has already produced one cookbook and is contemplating writing another. She particularly enjoys Indian cuisine and her knowledge of the spices used in such cookery plays a part in solving the central mystery in Outrage. That Elinborg pays close attention to everything at the crime scene including smells, as well as the details reported by witnesses, is, again, a refreshing departure from Erlendur who often jumps to conclusions.
Elinborg is called to the scene of a brutal death. A young man is found in his Reykjavik apartment lying in a pool of blood. His throat has been sliced from ear to ear. His pants are down around his ankles and he is wearing a tee shirt with a San Francisco logo on it. It's a tee shirt that is much too small for him and appears to be a woman's. There are date-rape "roofie" pills found in a jacket pocket and, when the autopsy is performed, they are also found in the man's mouth and throat. There is a used condom nearby and, under the bed, Elinborg finds a shawl. The cashmere shawl smells of tandoori spices and Elinborg follows her nose to find the shawl's owner.
The question is, was there a woman in the apartment at the time of the killing? Was she possibly the victim of date-rape? If so, is there a pattern? Has this man committed such rapes before? In this case, was the victim able to overcome her rapist and kill him? Or was there a third party present who committed the murder or helped her to commit it?
In the insular society of Iceland, rape is considered an extremely shameful crime - for the victim! (Evidently even more so than is the case in this country.) These crimes are often not reported and even if they are reported and a conviction is achieved, the punishment is generally almost negligible, perhaps a year or at most two in prison. Indriðason gives us a lot of background on Icelandic attitudes and the judicial system's handling of these cases. He obviously feels very strongly about the issue.
Elinborg and her associate Sigurdur Oli follow the clues as they lead back to the village where the murder victim was born and grew up. They untangle a whole skein of unsavory memories from that isolated village - memories that no one ever really talks about.
The ultimate solution to the murder is not altogether satisfactory, but at least we have the gratification of knowing that a certain justice has been served and that a serial rapist will rape no more.
An interesting aside to this story was Elinborg's and Sigurdur's ruminations on their colleague, Elendur. Turns out, they don't like him any better than I do!
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