There are no knee slappers in Arnaldur's novel, but there is plenty of wit from this artful Icelandic crime writer. Here's the closest the book gets to a bawdy nudge in the ribs, protagonist Erlendur Sveinsson and his girlfriend, discussing whether two formerly married partners can find true love:
Perhaps, says the girlfriend. "Yes," says Erlendur, "but what if one of them finds this true love at regular intervals?"
In a similar vein is another joke that may not even be a joke in the original Icelandic but works nicely in English. A well-dressed colleague of Erlendur's is knocking on doors questioning neighbors the killing that has set the story in motion. One of the neighbors mistakes him for a Jehovah's Witness and politely but firmly closes the door in his face. He knocks again and, when the woman she opens the door a second time, says "You haven't heard the news, have you?"
"The news" is the killing, and "You haven't heard the news?" is a sly, amusing reproach to a woman who thinks she has just shut the door on a Christian proselytizer.
More tomorrow, perhaps, on small ways Arnaldur articulates big themes.
© Peter Rozovsky 2009