Review by New York Times Review
ARNALDUR INDRIDASON isn't like other authors of Nordic crime fiction. The crimes he writes about aren't particularly gruesome. His villains aren't excessively violent, nor are his victims especially remarkable. And his detective hero is so taciturn he's barely socialized. But the Icelandic author's latest novel, REYKJAVIK NIGHTS (Thomas Dunne/Minotaur, $25.99), nicely illustrates the qualities that make his books so deeply pleasurable. Translated with grave sensitivity by Victoria Cribb, the new novel is a prequel, set in 1974, when Iceland was celebrating the 1,100th anniversary of its settlement - a time when Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson was a rookie cop on night patrol with the Reykjavik police, "witnessing human dramas that were hidden from others." Even then, he was a night person, going on lonely walks around the city, dropping into graveyards for "peace and solace" and fretting about public indifference to people like Hannibal, the homeless tramp who "drowned like a stray dog" in a shallow pond in the peat marshes. Having often locked him up on a drunk-anddisorderly charge to keep him from freezing to death, Erlendur had come to know something of Hannibal's sad history. And now, a year after his death, the young cop suspects he was murdered. As Erlendur interviews other homeless people, he demonstrates the compassion that would come to define the character we know from later novels. His is a generosity of spirit that extends to both the living and the dead, from the battered wives who keep forgiving their violent husbands to the college girl who vanished 20 years ago and in whose ghostly footsteps he walks from time to time. In comforting Hannibal's grieving sister, Erlendur reveals the personal tragedy that accounts for both the kinship he felt with her brother and his lifelong obsession with stories and legends about missing persons. The bulk of his extensive library on this morbid subject has to do with travelers who lost their way in the wilderness and either survived through "incredible feats of endurance" or perished in "tragic surrender to the forces of nature." But because people like Hannibal "could just as easily lose themselves on Reykjavik's busy streets as on remote mountain paths in winter storms," he will be the champion of all these lost souls. LIAM MULLIGAN can't hang on much longer as the last reputable reporter at The Providence Dispatch. Since the paper's corporate takeover, the newsroom is down to a few pale ghosts, the J-school grads are running boilerplate, and the new managing editor is tailoring copy to advertisers. But until someone actually pulls the plug on this once-scrappy daily, Bruce DeSilva gives his smart and funny investigative sleuth something to live and fight for. In A SCOURGE OF VIPERS (Forge/Tom Doherty, $25.99), the governor of Rhode Island, a feisty former nun (irresistibly known as Attila the Nun), is pushing to legalize sports betting. Of course, this makes the big crime families apoplectic, and they hastily scramble to funnel bribes to "upstanding public servants" who can block the legislation, something that comes to Mulligan's attention through his close associations with local mobsters as well as the chief of police. But the politics get really ugly when a legislator who turned down a bribe is found floating in the Blackstone River. Mulligan sinks his teeth into this juicy story, but if the paper folds, he's already got a few offers - the most attractive being the one from his bookie, who wants Mulligan to take over the numbers so he can retire. DETECTIVES ARE ALWAYS being upstaged by flashy villains. But it's the victims who take the shine off the lead detective in behind CLOSED DOORS (Harper, paper, $15.99). Detective Chief Inspector Louisa (Lou) Smith of the fictional English town of Briarstone is meant to be the featured player in Elizabeth Haynes's novel, but she's too wrapped up in her boyfriend and too inundated with intelligence reports to be much fun. All this dry police work fails to capture the drama in the story of 15-year-old Scarlett Rainsford, kidnapped on a family holiday in Greece, who reappears 10 years later in a local brothel. That transfixing story, told through vivid flashbacks, is the grim reality for the many women and children bought and sold throughout Europe every day. Haynes gives Scarlett such a resonant voice that she can almost speak for all these unfortunates, victims who can't speak for themselves. NOTHING BEATS THE Victorian era for refined social cruelty or the Middle Ages for wholesale savagery, but for financial buccaneering it's the 18th century you want. Robin Blake's historical mystery THE HIDDEN MAN (Minotaur, $25.99) is set in a provincial English town making preparations for a grand festival held only once every 20 years. The mayor is understandably anxious about financing this fete, but since people didn't quite have the hang of a banking system in the Georgian era, he entrusts the funds to Phillip Pimbo, a pawnbroker with a sturdy strongroom. But when Pimbo suddenly dies, it's revealed that he invested the money in a merchant ship trafficking in the slave trade. The sleuths in this series, the coroner Titus Cragg and Dr. Luke Fidelis, are too precious for words, but what's valuable here is the author's portrait of the emergence of investment banking.
Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [April 19, 2015]
Review by Booklist Review
Indridason's latest foray into Inspector Erlendur Sveinnson's Or Sveinsson's? world chronicles the inspector's first investigation as a rookie Reykjavik cop, an unofficial inquiry into the death of a homeless man he often met while wading through the night shift's drunk-driver arrests and domestic-violence calls. Erlendur is first on the scene when Hannibal's body is found floating in a flooded peat field, and he's disturbed by how quickly the death is ruled accidental. Haunted by a need to see Hannibal's death thoroughly investigated and by the nagging conviction that it's connected to a young woman's disappearance, Erlendur methodically unravels Hannibal's story, from the devastating loss of his young wife to a brutal beating he sustained just before his death. Tragic pasts, buried pain, missing persons, and victims from society's fringes are all hallmarks of crime series, and they're all in play here, but Erlendur's accounts of street policing contribute fresh interest and story-propelling energy. Indridason has crafted a stellar prequel to his popular series, offering both insight into Erlendur's gloom and a glimpse of what he was like before the cloud settled in fully.--Tran, Christine Copyright 2015 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
In this riveting prequel set in late-1960s Reykjavík, Indridason plumbs the backstory of his series lead, somber Insp. Erlendur Sveinsson. As a young cop, Erlendur patrols at night, writes speeding tickets, and escorts drunks to the station house. When Hannibal, a tramp he's acquainted with, dies of apparently natural causes, Erlendur starts to investigate on his own time. In the process, he learns about Reykjavík's down-and-out population-which Indridason presents humanely and without sentimentality-and about becoming a detective. His obsession with Hannibal and what happened to him foreshadows the concerns of the more mature Erlendur in books set years later, such as 2014's Strange Shores. Erlendur connects Hannibal's case to that of a missing woman and a criminal enterprise that may strike readers as amateurish (one tactic is stolen from the then-new TV detective show Ironside). The investigation slowly but surely gathers powerful, page-turning momentum. This installment stands on its own, but it's all the more impressive for giving new insight into Erlendur. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
The year is 1974 in this series prequel. Called to a domestic dispute, Erlendur is reminded of a homeless alcoholic named Hannibal who drowned in a nearby pond the previous year. It was assumed the victim was drunk and accidentally drowned. A rookie cop, Erlendur is intrigued by unsolved cases, especially disappearances. Having met Hannibal several times on his beat, Erlendur begins looking at the files regarding the drowning and searching for clues on his own time. He also remembers that a young woman disappeared at the same time as Hannibal's death. Erlendur also probes this case, wondering if the two occurrences might be linked. While this story is not as riveting nor as dark as previous titles (most recently Strange Shores), young Erlendur is still a solid character, socially awkward, a loner, driven even then. Readers get a glimpse into the man and his entrée into criminal investigation. His police partners play minimal, more comical roles in this installment. At the end, -Erlendur meets his future CID mentor who will apparently play a key role in his future. -VERDICT Readers of Nordic mysteries and police procedurals will devour the entire series, beginning with this book. [See Prepub Alert, 10/13/14.]-Edward -Goldberg, Syosset P.L., NY © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Haunted by the inexplicable death of a vagabond he befriended, a young Icelandic cop vows to learn the truth.Decades before the events of the Inspector Erlendur novels (Strange Shores, 2014, etc.), Erlendur Sveinsson serves on patrol with Gardar and Marteinn, law students working for the police over the summer. Answering a domestic violence call, the young detective is reminded of an unsolved case from a year ago in which a homeless man named Hannibal drowned not far away. It may have been an accident, but Erlendur's instincts tell him otherwise. Maybe it's just because he took a liking to Hannibal. Flashbacks depict their budding friendship as Erlendur methodically investigates on his own time. He questions some of Hannibal's homeless mates and tracks down his sister, a possible lover and a pair of brothers who lived next door to him as a child and may have brutalized him. The deeper he probes, the more secrets he uncovers and the more he suspects foul play. Hannibal's is the most involving, but far from the only, case that the ambitious Erlendur is tackling. He makes a habit of trawling through police archives to study missing persons cases from the past and present. He's particularly intrigued by the disappearance of a young woman named Oddny from nearby Thorskaffi that he thinks just might be connected to Hannibal's death. Indridason's prequel unfolds with the same precision, economically depicted characters and authenticity as his Inspector Erlendur novels, but a livelier energy replaces the middle-aged Erlendur's noir melancholy. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.