Review: The Darkness Knows – Detective Konrad #1 (Arnaldur Indriðason)

You can’t be in a rush with Indriðason’s Nordic Noir. If you’ve read his Erlandur books, sliding into this book featuring Konrad will feel like a warm bubble bath, comforting and familiar.

A group of German tourists and their guide find a hand sticking out of one of the glaciers that is melting thanks to climate change. The authorities are called, and the dead, frozen man is identified as a man who went missing long ago, with foul play suspected at that time, since his car was not found at the glacier, but in another location. Konrad was the original detective on the case, and the dead man’s business partner Hjaltalín was arrested based on a coerced confession.

Konrad has since retired. He had taken leave from the job to care for his wife who was dying of cancer, and after she died, he simply made retirement official. He doesn’t do a whole lot with his days, and the best times he has are when his son and grandkids come to visit.

Marta is in charge of the new case revolving around the dead man, and she asks Konrad to come in and consult on it. He reluctantly does, but as the investigation picks up, he finds not having a badge means people can just slam a door in his face and not answer questions they would have were he still on the force.

Then, a woman shows up at his door, asking him to look into the case of her brother, who was killed in what looked to be a hit and run. Were they connected? Konrad thinks so, even if few others do. He doggedly continues his public/private investigation, stirring up hornets’ nests and finding witnesses who can remember what was happening around the time the man went missing.

Meanwhile, Hjaltalín is back in prison, protesting his innocence, and wants Konrad to come see him. Konrad does, but is very cold toward him. Hjaltalín begs him to continue the investigation, to absolve him of a crime he didn’t commit. Hjaltalín has cancer and is dying, you see, and even though the two of them don’t care for one another, Hjaltalín believes Konrad to be a honest man and good cop.

People looking for nonstop action as the middle carries on into the final act will be disappointed. Most police work is not gunfights and car chases. It’s following the clues where they lead and evaluating evidence and suspects. That’s what Konrad does.

In the end, not only do we see the resolution of the crime, if there is one, and settling some of Konrad’s personal debts to his own soul.

Take a walk in the glacier field, and pick up this first book in what will hopefully be a long series.

Five out of five stars.

Thanks to St Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the reading copy.

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