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.