Into Oblivion by Arnaldur Indridason
It’s 1979 in Iceland. A woman suffering from psoriasis tries bathing in the mineral rich lagoons forming from the waste water created by the local geothermal power plant on the Reykjanes Peninsula. (Bit of trivia: this is the true origin story of the famed Blue Lagoon, it was a happy accident and is not naturally formed.) Her treatment is interrupted by the discovery of a shoe, which she is horrified to find still has a foot in it attached to an entire dead body.
Detective Erlendur is assigned to the case and when examining the body back in the morgue in Reykjavik he notices that all the clothes on the dead man are American made. Could he be a soldier from the American military base at Keflavik? If so, how did he end up kilometers away in the lagoon?
The novel revolves around two mysteries, the death of the man found in the lagoon and a twenty-five year old missing persons case that Erlendur can’t stop thinking about. Of course, he solves them both and does it without computers and Google. Refreshing actually.
Having been all around the places mentioned in the novel recently I found it interesting on that level but also learning about the animosity that existed between base personnel and the native Icelanders. While the army brought modernity to Iceland in the 1940s the warm and fuzzy feelings were not really there in the 1970s. The base was completely separate, truly a country within a county, and the two groups never really mixed; which brings interesting tension to solving a murder with a body found in the countryside and the probable murder site on the base grounds. The author combined the history and the mystery very well.
It’s interesting that this book was written now since it looks like the U.S. military will reopen its base in Keflavik next year. Hopefully the military personnel based there now won’t think it is a hardship assignment like those stationed there back in the 70s. I would go willingly! Maybe they need a librarian…?