Reykjavik Nights by Arnaldur Indriðason

24353679Fiction — Kindle edition. Translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb. Minotaur Books, 2015. Originally published 2012. 336  pgs. Library copy.

Erlendur Sveinsson is a new patrolman working in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik. Primarily assigned to the night shift, Erlendur’s police duties are largely constrained to arresting drunk drivers, corralling the city’s homeless population, and ticketing traffic violations.

During one night shift, Erlendur crossed paths with a homeless man named Hannibal. The interaction was brief; Hannibal had been discovered living between hot water pipes and needed to be encouraged to move on. But the moment left an impression on Erlendur, especially after Hannibal was found dead in a small pond a few weeks later.

The death was ruled an accident; Hannibal was a drunk and the medical examiner assumed he drowned. Yet Erlendur is unable to let go of the idea that something more nefarious happened, and he reaches out to Hannibal’s sister and friends for more information about the man. During the course of his off-the-books investigation, Erlendur discovers a tragic past and a piece of jewelry that may link to another Reykjavik crime.

Reykjavik Nights is the first novel in the Young Inspector Erlendur series and is the first prequel to the nine books that comprise the Inspector Erlendur series. As I mentioned in my review of the second book in the Young Inspector Erlendur series, Erlendur isn’t the gruff and jaded investigator he is in the later novels.

Unlike in the second book, though, this prequel serves as a bridge between the past and the present of the Inspector Erlendur series. The younger Erlendur may be green and unsure about his future as a police officer in this novel, but he demonstrates shades of who he will become — disregarding authority yet bending to it when it serves his purpose; unable to resist the pull of a cold case; deeply affected by relationships and unspoken words between siblings.

The case kept me on my toes with interesting twists, turns, and red herrings along the way. In hindsight, I feel silly not realizing the conclusion, but it is a testament to Indriðason’s skills as a storyteller that he can be the obvious seem implausible until the end.

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