NY: St. Martin, 2006.
In southern Europe and the U.S., Scandinavians frequently are thought of as dour, depressive, and alcoholic, all as a result of suffering through long, dark, cold winters. Actually, Danes and Swedes think of themselves as cheerful, upbeat optimists and reserve the noted personality traits for the saga-bound residents of Iceland. Erlendur Sveinsson, detective inspector and homicide specialist with the Reykjavik police, probably would agree with him. At least, most violent crimes in Iceland aren’t premeditated — though there’s a good deal more organized crime around than when he was young. Most murders in his country are crimes of passion, committed on the spur of the moment. And he begins with that assumption when a hotel doorman who also dresses up as Santa during the holidays is found stabbed to death a few days before Christmas in his tiny room in the hotel’s basement, with his trousers around his ankles.