It’s been ten years since the first Inspector Erlendur novel appeared in English. Over the past ten years, Arnaldur Indriðason* has been taking us deeper into the life of the quiet detective who is obsessed with forgotten cases of missing persons. Reykjavík Nights takes us back to the early days of Erlendur’s career with the Reykjavík police. After so many volumes with the dour, weary version of Erlendur, it’s strange to see him with energy and a bit of optimism. As I read Reykjavík Nights, I wanted to take the detective aside and warn him about the bad decisions he’s going to make.
Reykjavík Nights takes us back to a summer when Erlendur was still with the traffic division. He’s on nights with two police interns pulling over speeding and/or drunk drivers, responding to domestic incidents, burglaries, noise complains, and the like. This might be enough police work for anyone—except Erlendur. Anyone familiar with the character will know that when someone goes missing and the police stop actively investigating, Erlendur takes over. As a traffic cop, however, Erlendur has to investigate the drowning death of a homeless man and a woman who never came home after a night out on his own.
There is a recurring theme in the Inspector Erlendur novels. Even now, the landscape is so harsh and the weather so unpredictable, that it’s entirely possibly for people to wander off on a hike and never be heard from again. It’s also a country with a significant number of suicidal people. Many disappearances are written off as suicide or mischance. Erlendur’s brother is one of the disappeared and the inspector has been haunted by this ever since. He can’t let people go.
Reykjavík Nights takes place a year after two deaths (or one accident and a disappearance according to the official account). No one cares about Hannibal; he was written off years ago by his family. He was a drunk, so it’s not hard to believe he died in a shallow pond. There’s also nothing to link him with the disappearance of a young woman—until another semi-homeless alcoholic reports that she found a flashy earring near where Hannibal died. The woman, Oddný, had been trying to leaver her violence husband, but apart from the earring, no sign of her has been seen in a year. As in other novels in the series, the two seemingly unconnected cases start to coalesce into one.
Erlendur, in Reykjavík Nights, is becoming the dogged detective he will be in later volumes. He talks to people all over the city, following the faintest of leads. He doesn’t yet have his delicate touch for getting reluctant witnesses to talk or criminals to unwittingly incriminate themselves. Instead, his stubbornness carries him along. Reykjavík Nights is one of the best prequels I’ve ever read.
I received a free copy of this ebook from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. It will be released 21 April 2015.
* This is the correct spelling of the author’s name, not the one that appears on the cover and title page of the American version published by Minotaur books. Indriðason is pronounced In-drith-a-son. The th, written with an ð, sounds like the hard th sound at the beginning of the word there.
The name of Iceland’s capital city is also misspelled on the cover and title page because it’s missing an accent.