Sunday, November 25, 2007

Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason

Jar City by Arnaldur Indriđason
Translated by Bernard Scudder
Picador, 2004 (originally published in 2000)
Mystery; 275 pgs

Completed: 11/20/2007
Rating: * (Very Good)

First Sentence: The words were written in pencil on a piece of paper placed on top of the body.

Reason for Reading: I have a copy of Silence of the Grave sitting on my immediate TBR shelf (as opposed to sitting in my TBR room), and I decided to start at the beginning of the series with Jar City.

Comments: I admit that it has only been in recent years that I ventured outside of American and British mysteries. It wasn’t for lack of interest, but more because I just was not aware of them.

Iceland is one of those countries that I know little about, although I do know some things. I used to write to a girl in Iceland and we traded stories about our cultures and lives. I was quite excited when I came across Indriđason’s mysteries as a result.

Inspector Erlendur of Reykjavík is called to the scene of the murder of a 69 year old man who was found dead in his flat by his neighbors. A cryptic note left behind by the killer is the only clue at first, until the police stumble upon a photograph of a young girl’s grave during further search of the home. It is soon discovered that the murder victim has a dark past. The police must decide if the murder is a straight forward burglary gone wrong or his past come back to haunt him. Despite the doubts of his coworkers, Erlendur is determined to travel into the past and learn as much about the victim as he can, digging up well-hidden secrets and picking at old wounds not yet healed.

The character of Erlendur is subtle in his way. He seems simple on the surface, however, there is much more to him than how he comes across. He is quite bright, insightful, and thoughtful. I liked him immediately. He is not without his personal problems. His daughter, Eva Lind, is visiting and her own problems are spilling over into his life. Not only does he have to juggle the stresses of the murder investigation, but he also is dealing with his own personal issues. To contrast the rather old fashioned Erlendur are his more modern partner, Sigurdur Óli, and the ever questioning Elínborg. Both inspectors are professionals to the end.

The mystery itself is quite complex and goes in many different directions before finally reaching its end. Erlendur stays the course, even when going off on tangents to get more answers to questions that arise in the investigation. Author Arnaldur Indriđason does not fill the pages with frills and over the top excitement; rather he takes a more subtle approach, while at the same time tackling difficult topics and emotions. He has earned a faithful reader in me.

Favorite Parts: There was so much to like about this book. I loved that it rained constantly and that Erlendur had to be extra vigilant while driving. The moment when Erlendur and Eva Lind switched roles for a moment in each others’ lives touched my heart. I liked that no one knows the gender of Marion Briem and the author without being obvious never reveals that bit of information one way or the other (of course, a part of me also wonders what the point is in that?).

Miscellaneous: Many thanks for all the well wishes for my dog, Riley! I think he's been to the vet more times this year than any other. Poor little guy. He had a great ol' time in the waiting area at the veterinarian's office yesterday morning but was not so thrilled when he had to sit on the exam table. The doctor put him on antibiotics and nausea medication. Riley is already feeling better as evidenced by his increase in activity, and he is eating a little more. The blood test results are due back tomorrow afternoon. Thank you again!

And just because it seems like I talk more about my dog than my cat, let me put in a good word for this adorable cat who is sitting on my lap purring away as I write this. Parker has done his share of comforting his companion through the illness. If only all siblings got along so well.


  1. This books sounds like something I would like to read. How did you find out about it? I've never heard of the series or the author.

  2. It was actually the author's name that first drew me to the books, at least the second book, and once I discovered it was a second, I had to look for the first. About that time too, I suddenly began seeing the author's name and his books mentioned by other bloggers who really like his work, and so I figured I must be onto something good. :-)

  3. After I posted the comment, I went and looked them up and now they are on my TBR list, lol. So, thanks!

    Also, I meant to tell you in my first comment that I'm very happy that your dog is feeling better. Happy vibes from me and my dogs to you and yours. ;)

  4. Glad to know that your doggy is feeling better now. Sending hugs all the way to you. :D

  5. I have this on my 1st in a Series list for 2008! So glad to see that you enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to it.

  6. This sounds really interesting! I'm always on the look-out for new (to me) mystery authors.

  7. I keep seeing this book at the library and picking it up and putting it down, uncertain whether I'll take to it. I do like Karin Fossum, a Norwegian mystery writer, a great deal and I see all those Scandinavians as being so dark and brooding (takes one to know one!). But this review has propelled me into the "I'll take it" mode next time I'm at the library!!

  8. I will definitely be reading this book. I loved Silence of the Grave!

  9. Glad to hear your dog's feeling better!

    I chuckled over your TBR shelf vs. your TBR room. Sounds like my house :-). Could it be that we have just too many books TBR? No, that's just not possible...

    On topic, this sounds like an interesting read. I think my only exposure to Iceland in books was Smilla's Sense of Snow a few years back, and that was pretty engrossing.

  10. I thought Smilla's Sense of Snow was set in Denmark, the author's Danish. But all those cold countries up there are interchangeable :)

  11. This book sounds interesting, Wendy.

    I'm glad to hear your dog is feeling much better.

  12. Trisha - Thanks so much. Riley appreciates the the good vibes. :-)

    Alice - Thank you! We both appreciate it.

    Joy - I hope you enjoy it, Joy.

    Nicola - It's worth trying, I think. :-)

    Karen - I recently brought home a Karin Fossum book to try. I am glad to hear you enjoy her books.

    The second book by Indriđason is much more dark and brooding. That isn't to say you won't find any of that in Jar City, but I didn't think it was overwhelming nor did it overtake the story in anyway.

    Jaimie - I'm reading Silence of the Grave now and really enjoying it. I think more so than Jar City, but it's still too early to tell.

    Florinda - Thanks. He's pretty much back to his old self today.

    I admit that when I started my review for this book, I immediately thought of Smilla's Sense of Snow in regards to location. :-) Iceland and Greenland are easy to get mixed up to those of us who aren't all that familiar with the two countries, I think. :-)

    Karen - You're right. Hoeg's book is set in Denmark with a short stop in Greenland.

    Melody - Thank you, Melody!

  13. Well, crud.

    I completely missed the little blurb about your Riley being under the weather. I'm sorry to hear that. But I'm glad to hear he's doing better.

    Mine is missing one of her cats, who is staying overnight at the vet's after being spayed today. I'll more than likely miss her a tad, too.


  14. CJ - Thanks. He's beginning to get into mischief so he definitely must be feeling better. :-)

    I hope everything went well for the cat who is elsewhere tonight. It's hard when they are away.

  15. Sounds like a fascinating book; I've finally started reading some mysteries of late and have rather enjoyed them.

    I hope Riley continues to feel better, and I'm glad Parker is doing his part. ;)

  16. Ooh I hope Riley continues to feel better!
    So glad you enjoyed this book. I've read the second book and I think the third one is finally available here in the States. I need to get my hands on it.

  17. Glad to hear Riley is recuperating well and Parker is peacefully purring!

    That book sounds good.

  18. Heather - Thanks so much for the well wishes for Riley. He seems to be back to normal. His blood tests came back negative, which is very good. :-)

    There are quite a few good mysteries out there these days. I wish I had more time to get to more of them.

    Iliana - Thanks! Riley is snuggled up in the cat's bed right now, but he was very playful earlier tonight, which is definitely a good sign.

    I noticed the third book, Voices, in the store the other day. I almost picked it up, but I stopped myself. I'm trying to be good and not buy any more books before Christmas.

    Carrie K. - Thank you!


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