"Flóvent and Thorson took a table at a restaurant on Hafnarstræti called Hot and Cold. The place had opened after the outbreak of war and was popular with servicemen. It sold fish and chips alongside traditional Icelandic dishes such as breaded lamb chops, rhubarb pudding, and skyr with cream, which proved a hit with the soldiers. The worst of the crush was over by the time the two men arrived and the owner, a short, curly-haired man in shoes with noticeably built-up heels, was busy clearing the tables. As they tucked into their salt cod with boiled potatoes and dripping they fell to discussing Frank Ruddy." (The Shadow District, p. 89)
Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason has written several police procedurals featuring the two detectives named Flóvent and Thorson. I can't recall how I heard of this series, but I read the first of them, The Shadow District,
on the plane on the way back from Paris. It was just right for a 7-hour trip!
The novel takes place in modern-day Iceland where a retired police detective, trying to solve the murder of a 90-year-old man, is forced to return to an unsolved murder from the time of World War II, when large numbers of British and American soldiers were stationed in Iceland for various military purposes. The social history of the interactions between the foreign soldiers and the local Icelandic residents is portrayed in a most interesting way! I hope this cultural background is well-researched as I really have no way to judge.
The suspense in both past and present works very well and the characters are likable and convincing. As always, I appreciated the descriptions of food from the days when Iceland was little influenced by outsiders. Reading this book on an airplane made me recall my first ever plane trip many years ago, when I traveled from my home in St. Louis to France. At the time, you could get very cheap flights on Icelandic Air, which flew all its planes through Reykjavik. It was not a bad flight, but the Reykjavik terminal was under construction so the airline took us on a bus to a location away from the airport, and gave us a meal which I think included baked cod and unfamiliar vegetables. I found this meal strange, and couldn't eat it. The stewardess seemed to disapprove of my waste of food. When I arrived in France, however, the food didn't seem at all strange -- I thought it was wonderful!
In The Shadow District,
there's also occasional detail about food of the present day and what people might have eaten. For example, the detective wants to know about the murdered man:
"The last meal the man had cooked himself was porridge. That was easy – he hadn’t washed up the pan. And he had eaten liver sausage with the porridge. The other half of the sausage was in the fridge, and the bowl in the sink contained traces of this meal. Judging by the contents of the fridge, he had subsisted largely on traditional Icelandic fare. The bread bin contained flatbread and a loaf of rye that was going mouldy. There wasn’t much in the kitchen cupboards, just a few plates and cups." (p. 38).
Similar fare shows up in the story from the 1940s -- about a man taken prisoner as a suspect in the earlier murder case: "He had little appetite and hardly touched his breakfast of porridge served with two slices of liver sausage and a glass of milk." (p. 228).
It's likely that I'll read more of the books by author Arnaldur Indridason, as I enjoyed the way he depicts a fairly standard mystery tale in a rather exotic setting.