How often has it happened where a favorite author goes and writes a prequel? It has never happened to me, until now. Sure there are great prequels written by authors many years later, like Gertrude and Claudius by John Updike which is a prequel to Hamlet. But this time it is Arnaldur Indridason writing a prequel to his own Inspector Erlendur series. Reykjavik Nights goes back to the beginning of our weary inspector’s career on the police force in Iceland and how he ends up in CID and married. In real time, Erlendur was last seen in the hinterlands of his birth, The East Fjords, Eskifjordur, searching for answers and perhaps a lost brother. So how does it all start anyway?
The theme of water, drowning, and disappearances comes up immediately in Erlendur’s career, a pattern we will see over and over again in his cases. The disappearance of Erlendur’s brother certainly must have started him on this fascination as seen in his literary collection of tomes about people disappearing in Iceland. So it is no surprise that Erlendur is fascinated with the drowning of a tramp, Hannibal, who had just disappeared from his family. Erlendur’s obsession began with his brother’s disappearance and has now entered his professional life as a policeman and hunting for the disappeared, which ironically he is as this book is a prequel to the life of Erlendur who is now out looking for his brother again. On that same evening in an unrelated case a woman disappeared from her home. As Erlendur continues to examine the death of Hannibal, at his sister’s request, Erlendur finds his night shift duties are intermingling with his private inquiry. As is always the case coincidences are the very clues that help young Erlendur solve his first case and begin his path with CID. And of course he is also becoming a father and we know how that works out.