Iceland's Indridason is a master of the hard-edged realist psychological thriller, anchoring his stories in the dark side of contemporary Icelandic life – from the banking collapse to the perils of sudden modernization. "There has to be complete realism," he says. "Icelandic cops don't carry weapons, and no international James Bond conspiracy will ever be created here." Instead, Indridason focuses on characterization and black humor: "My book Silence of the Grave starts with a toddler chewing on a toy, but on closer inspection it turns out to be a rib from a corpse."
If you like the hard-edged realism of Ed McBain, check out Indridason's Inspector Erlendur series.
The Detective: Inspector Erlendur ("Stranger" in Icelandic) is the ultimate outsider detective, a police officer for whom all of modern Iceland – which evolved rapidly from poor and rural to wealthy and cosmopolitan before collapsing economically in 2008 – resembles the scene of a crime. His beat is Reykjavík.
Background: Like Erlendur, who's a devoted reader of Iceland's 13th-century sagas and wilderness-survival tales (his younger brother disappeared in a snowstorm when they were boys), Indridason worries about the survival of traditional Icelandic culture. "In recent decades, illegal drug use has brought with it uglier and crueler crimes," he says, "and nowadays you will find here all the same types of criminal activity common to other European cities."
Influences: "I admire Alfred Hitchcock's mix of suspense with humor and use that combination when I write."
Read: In Strange Shores (out this month), Erlendur visits his family's dilapidated farmhouse in the Icelandic backcountry, searching for the body of his long-lost brother. Chapter by chapter, Erlendur drifts through the progressive stages of hypothermia, as the murder case unfolds.