It’s the middle of January and bitterly cold when Erlendur, Sigurdur Oli and Elinborg are called to investigate a murder. A young Thai boy is found stabbed to death, the blood from his wound frozen beneath him. Not only is there the shock and despair of a young life cut tragically short, they have to wonder if the crime was racially motivated. As it turned out, the real motive was much, much worse. But I am getting ahead of myself.
That this case involves a boy and his anguished brother, who blames himself for not protecting his young sibling, is especially troubling for Erlendur. Throughout the book, we learn more and more about those tragic events long ago when he, his father and younger brother Berger were lost out in a storm. He and his father were rescued but there has never been any trace of Berger since. Sometimes Erlendur is just mulling these things over alone, reading through the account in one of his many books that recount tales of tragedy and triumph out in the wilds of Iceland. At other times he talks about it with his former boss, Marion Bream, as the older man lay dying. Then his daughter and son come visit him. When Sindri was working in the east, he had inquired about it and found that many people remember the awful events of that fated winter and offered theories of their own as to what happened to his little brother. Increasingly, I am more interested in the books for this side of the story, so compelling is the mystery and how this single event has marked Erlendur for life. What will the outcome of the uneasy relationship he is finally building with his children be? Will he be able to open up to Valgerdur? Or will he forever be a man alone with his grief?