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Reykjavik Nights by Arnaldur Indridason

Dark and Desperate Nights in Reykjavik

I would never intentionally start a mystery series in the middle – but by chance I picked up Reykjavik Nights by Arnaldur Indridason thinking it was the first in the series. I was wrong – it is the newest but one! But since I was at the cottage with nothing else to read this was it. It took me a few chapters to realize that it is not set in the present time though it was written in 2012. When the characters discuss a new band called the Rolling Stones, and talk about the popularity of Procal Harum’s A Whiter Shade of Pale, I knew it was the year I was in Grade 9 – so very long time ago.

I find novels set at this time, especially mystery novels involving policemen, interesting to read – there is no instant communication – no instant answers from google.  Policemen on the scene of a crime have to rely on their own judgment and resources. They have to look through files back at the station – it’s not all instantly accessible from a computer database. There is also far less concern for doing things the “correct” way – some policemen can be more or less renegades without serious consequences – for good or bad.

In this story, we meet Erlendur Sveinsson, a young policeman working the night shift. He is often out in a police car with two colleagues, mostly dealing with drunk drivers or petty thefts, or the general drunkenness of people on the street out for a night of partying, or the safety of the homeless.

There is a lot of drinking. It would be interesting to know if it reflects the reality of life in Iceland, and why that is. 

Erlendur has a fascination for cases involving people who have disappeared, and we learn why as we read. He is also a compassionate young man and cares about the welfare of the homeless, many of whom have no one to come to their defense. When a homeless man Erlendur has met in the past is found dead the detective is disturbed that no one seems to care if this death is accident, suicide or murder.

When it then appears that this death may have some connection to the unsolved disappearance of a woman in the same area Erlendur is intrigued enough to investigate on his own time.

I will admit that I found this novel a slow go at the beginning. The writing is spare, the long nights of policing the streets of Reykjavik are much the same, relatively uneventful. But, lacking something else to read, I carried on and by the time I was half way through I was hooked. I’m now reading the first and looking forward to reading my way through this series. I’d like to know more about Erlunder and about Iceland – bet you will too.


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