by Arnaldur Indridason
2014 / 304 pages
read by George Guidall / 7h 10m
rating – A+ / crime – police procedural
(Erlendur Sveinsson series #16 but it’s a prequel)
This is a little different in the course of the series -it mostly concerns Erlendur as a young traffic officer who investigates closed and missing persons cases on his own time. This young Erlendur may continue with a series of his own.
In 1974, Erlendur is new on the job, a usually drunk and homeless man named Hannibal is found drowned in a local shallow pond by a couple of teenage boys. A year later Erlendur and a couple of trainees are called to the same neighborhood and Erlendur is reminded of the case – actually the case has been haunting the detective because he had known Hannibal and nothing much had been done about investigating – it was assumed that he just drowned in the very shallow pond although as it turns out there may have been a previous attempt on his life. Erlendur has his own reasons for being attracted to missing persons cases – and he stays up late, working alone on his own time.
The opening is difficult – because Hannibal’s death occurred a year prior and there are numerous flashbacks to when the Erlendur knew Hannibal from the streets but couldn’t really investigate. It’s sometimes hard to tell when a scene is occurring but this settles out.
In a secondary but interwoven plot thread, another person went missing around the same time as Hannibal was killed – a young woman on her way to a college class never got there – she just disappeared. She had apparently been living with a seriously abusive husband.
Erlendur’s investigation in 2014 mostly takes the form of interviews and rehashing memories as he walks and thinks alone at night. There are a couple of other interesting characters – Hannibal’s sometime girlfriend and his sister. He really has no partners in this novel. He’s a loner with a kind of obsessive attitude toward his work and for his own reasons.
Protagonists in serial crime novels frequently have to have a special draw – their own personalities and an overarching plot to their lives for which a fan will return. Erlendur is a serious loner and has his own brand of difficulties, he blames himself for the long ago death of a younger brother as well as the more recent failure of his own marriage. He’s a bit on the depressive side but enjoys music and has a girlfriend at the moment.
As has become common with many Scandinavian crime stories, the novel also informs the readers about the social and other realities of life in the cold countries. This time the focus seems to be on the underbelly, the homelessness, crime, addiction and violence against women. Scandinavian crime has a long tradition now – from the team of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö to Henning Mankell, Stieg Larsson and many others in the 21st century – but it’s still evolving and there is no one “type;” it’s hard to generalize about it at this point.