Reykjavík Nights is the first of the prequel stories by the Icelandic author, Arnaldur Indriðason. It is set in 1974 and features the police officer, Erlendur at an early stage in his career. Having read a few of the later books in this series I found this first book interesting as it explains how Erlendur became a detective. In this book he is a traffic cop but takes on two investigations in his own time – one into the death of a homeless man called Hannibal and the other the disappearance of a woman. Through speaking to many homeless people on the streets of Reykjavík, Erlendur is able to piece together what happened to Hannibal. He is given an ear-ring found in the place where Hannibal was last seen and this clue helps him find out what happened to the missing woman.
What comes through in this story is Erlendur’s compassion towards other people – he is sympathetic to the homeless people and seems able to talk to them. He builds up a good relationship with Hannibal’s sister and finds out the background to Hannibal’s problems. However Erlendur does not seem to be so successful in his personal life. He is in a relationship in this book but seems unwilling to commit to anything permanent although this may change as his girlfriend has informed him that she is pregnant. He seems to be a loner who does not feel entirely at home in the city although he moved there with his parents at the age of 12. He still “looked back with nostalgia, regretting he no longer lived beside the sea.”
At the end of the book, his superior Marion is impressed with Erlendur’s investigations despite having broken every rule in the book. The book ends with this passage in which Erlendur retraces the last steps of another missing person – a schoolgirl who had disappeared many years earlier. This looks forward to Oblivion, a later book in the series when he investigates this case. (see my review on this book)
“He was filled with the old sense of sadness as he followed the girl along the street for the last time. They walked towards the site where Camp Knox had once stood, like a bleak memorial to the occupation and the nation’s impoverished past. There he stopped and watched her go on, her outline fading into the softly falling rain.”
I enjoyed this book and thought the translation is excellent. It was perhaps a little slower than some other books in the series as there was less action. However there were enough twists and turns in the story to keep the reader interested.