Who killed Santa Claus?
Reykjavík police inspector Erlendur, with sidekicks Sigurdur Óli and Elinborg, is summoned to a posh hotel to investigate the murder of Gudlaugur Egilsson, found stabbed in his modest basement digs with a condom hanging from his “ditty.” Saliva samples are taken of guests and employees, none of whom admits personally knowing the 50-ish doorman/handyman. But the hotel manager sheepishly acknowledges that he’d just fired Gudlaugur, apparently leaving him with no other prospects. A little digging reveals a remarkable story. Gudlaugur was a boy soprano with a brief but spectacular career. Indeed, hotel guest Henry Wapshott had come all the way from England to meet him. Talking to Gudlaugur’s estranged father and sister and his old choirmaster Gabríel fills in many details of Gudlaugur’s fall from fame, which involved an embarrassing public performance and a subsequent battle with his father so fierce that it left the old man confined to a wheelchair. The case affects Erlendur strangely. Suddenly very tired, he takes a room at the hotel, has obsessive thoughts about his broken family (in a hilarious scene, his drug-addicted daughter Eva Lind, visiting him in his room, is mistaken by hotel staff for a prostitute) and edges toward an affair with Valgerdur, an attractive crime-scene technician.
Another top-notch mystery from Indridason (Silence of the Grave, 2006, etc.), its lyrical melancholy matched by the depth of its characterizations.