Monday, March 3, 2014

DaybreakDaybreak by Viktor Arnar Ingólfsson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson's "Daybreak" is a rather straightforward police procedural where Reykjavik detectives are trying to catch a serial killer. It is marred by the use of two major literary clichés, but redeemed a little by the Icelandic setting. The author of "Flatey Enigma" and "House of Evidence" (I have reviewed both titles here) has been skillful in capturing the sense of location in his novels. Also, the choice of the killer's victims is cleverly offbeat: geese hunters are being killed during or just before the hunt.

In the character cliché, the two main detectives have stereotypically contrasting personalities: a fastidious, hard working, and dedicated Birkir, of Vietnamese extraction, and Gunnar, an overeating and heavily drinking slob, but an experienced and smart detective. This could have been overcome by deeper characterizations but unfortunately, with few exceptions, the characters in this novel are underdeveloped and stereotypical. I will not reveal the plot cliché here, so as not to spoil the reading, but it appears about mid-novel and concerns the motive for the killings.

There are some good things in this unremarkable novel such as, for example, a list of euphemisms for death reminiscent of the famous Parrot Sketch ("becoming a root inspector" is my favorite) or the astute characterization of Detective Superintendent Magnus Magnusson's family life, but overall the book has left me quite disappointed. The author himself refers to Sjowall and Wahloo's "The Laughing Policeman", a masterpiece of the Scandinavian police procedural genre, as if paying it homage, with the understanding that his work does not rise to the old masters' level of writing craft.

Finally, I now know for sure that I will never be a geese hunter. Using decoys to trick the flying geese to entice them to land and killing them is not my idea of a good time.

Two and a quarter stars.

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