How do you write an Inspector Erlendur novel without Erlendur? Arnaldur Indriðason gives it a shot in Outrage by promoting one of Erlendur’s detectives to protagonist. At the end of the previous Inspector Erlendur novel, Hypothermia, Erlendur traveled back to his home village in eastern Iceland to try and find the remains of his brother, who went missing during a blizzard decades ago.
Elínborg is one of two detectives who do most of Erlendur’s legwork. With Erlendur gone, Elínborg and Sigurður Óli have to take over when a man is found dead in his apartment. The man has a fistful of Rohypnol in his mouth and his throat slit from ear to ear. It doesn’t take long for Elínborg to work out that the man was a date rapist. The first theory is that a woman took revenge on him, but the only clue Elínborg has to go on is a purple shawl that smells of Indian spices.
Elínborg has a more logical style than Erlendur. Erlendur tends to go on hunches and stubbornness. Elínborg follows the clues from the shawl to an Indian cooking supply store to a customer that bought a tandoori oven. She listens to a mentally dodgy witness (who is paranoid about the electromagnetic waves put out by the wiring in her apartment) to a man with a limp and a leg brace. Of course, Indriðason throws Elínborg (and us) a gigantic twist at the end of the book that turns everything inside out.
I understand the reader criticism of this book on GoodReads. Erlendur’s name is in the subtitle of this book, but he never appears. In fact, it becomes clear that Erlendur has gone missing on his quest; no one has heard from him in two weeks. Elínborg is an interesting character. Unlike so many other detectives, Elínborg is a tired mom instead of an internally tormented detective with a troubled past. She has to balance her home life against her job. As Outrage goes on, she starts to wonder if it’s worth the cost to her family. Whenever anyone asks her what she does, Elínborg answers that her job is to help people who need it. She sounds like she’s trying to convince herself that her job is worthwhile as much as shes answering the question.
The only question I’m left with after reading Outrage is, “Does Indriðason plan to spin off his secondary characters into their own series?”