Erlendur is a traffic cop who dreams of being a detective one day. He has become fixated with two seemingly unrelated incidents that happened the previous year. Hannibal, a local tramp who he had some contact with through his police work, had been found drowned around the same time that a local woman disappeared, presumed to have committed suicide. No one has connected the two, but something about both stories doesn’t sit right with Erlendur. Did they know each other somehow?
Erlendur does solve both mysteries in the end, but perhaps more interesting for the regular readers are the glimpses into his personality. Already we see the loner character, who does have kind of a relationship with a woman that he isn’t really interested in. His fellow police officers are a little buffoonish and obsessed with pizza, TV and other bad American influences. Reykjavík itself is growing but still unbuilt even in quite central areas. We also get to meet Marion Briem for the first time towards the end of the book.
As the book is standalone, you don’t need to have read all the previous books, but understanding all these references are actually what makes the book interesting, rather than the cases. As with all of the books, being familiar with the local geography and mentions also helps with understanding the context and for this story, how much the landscape has changed in 40 years.
There is another prequel set in 1972 which has not made it into English translation yet, Einvígið. It will be interesting to see whether Indriðason continues with the Erlendur series or starts another one. I found this book to be “good enough” but it felt a little rushed somehow and didn’t have the “wow” factor of a Jar City. As with many authors I like, I’d be willing to wait a bit longer for a really great book.