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Jar City by Arnaldur Indriðason
MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,999953,361 (3.69)212
  1. 20
    Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indriðason (bcquinnsmom)
  2. 10
    Lonely Hearts by John Harvey (ansate)
    ansate: Erlendur and Resnick remind me a lot of each other, and both series paint vivid pictures of the cities where they take place.
  3. 00
    The Snowman by Jo Nesbo (Disco_grinch)
  4. 00
    Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell (dreamydress48)
  5. 00
    The Redbreast by Jo Nesbø (Disco_grinch)
  6. 00
    Pyroman by Jón Hallur Stefánsson (2810michael)
  7. 00
    The Draining Lake by Arnaldur Indriðason (Anonymous user)
  8. 11
    The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (ANeumann)

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» See also 212 mentions

English (81)  French (2)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (2)  Swedish (2)  German (2)  Norwegian (2)  Catalan (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (95)
Showing 1-5 of 81 (next | show all)
[Cross-posted to Knite Writes]

Hm, I don’t have a whole lot to say about this one really. It was an okay crime novel with a few good twists, but I found it to be somewhat dull and boring at times. I also felt the plot moved far too slowly, and that most of the plot points could have been covered in half the pages. Also, the characters, especially the main characters, read as somewhat one-dimensional throughout the book, and I thought their development could have used a little more focus.

Also, I know this isn’t the author’s fault, but I found the writing in this to be very flat and flavorless. I know translations are hard, especially from a ridiculously complicated language like Icelandic, but I feel like, if I’d read this book in its original language, it probably would have come off as a bit more interesting, even with the plot and characters the way they are. There was just something lacking in the prose, and I felt that, often times, the narration was somewhat awkwardly worded. I really think this book could use a better translation.

Again, though, that’s not the author’s fault. But it is a factor a reader should consider before picking this up, so I feel the need to mention it.

All in all, Jar City is really just…okay. It’s not particularly special on any front, and it doesn’t stick out among the dozens of bestselling entries in the Scandinavian crime thriller category.

I’ve been told that some of the other books in this series are better than this one, so I might try another, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend this series on the basis of this book alone.

Is It Worth Reading?

If you like crime fiction, and you have nothing to read at the moment, go for it. If you’re looking for something a little more exciting, perhaps not. ( )
  TherinKnite | Jul 15, 2015 |

I read this at the same time as The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. They actually have some elements in common - both are about untangling decades-old family secrets, involving sex, violence and intellectual endeavour. In Jar City, the intellectual endeavour is science, both forensic medicine and the Icelandic national genetic research database; and the mode of the novel is a detective story. The winning factor is the portrayal of this small island society, where almost everyone knows almost everyone, but people still slip between the cracks and the genetic mapping project starts to uncover hidden history. Our detective hero is much more at home with ordinary criminals, and dealing with the fallout of his broken family, than with the scientists who seem an alien culture grafted onto Iceland's gritty foundations. It also features a character who is not gendered, which takes some linguistic manoeuvring in a society where most people take a gendered patronymic. In fact the plot once entangled is fairly straightforward, and the resolution (dare I say it) a little glib, but it was a jolly good read, and the image of a room full of jars containing various things that forensic scientists might be interested in (the "jar city" of the title) will linger with me longer than I wanted it to. ( )
  nwhyte | May 16, 2015 |
Meh. If this is representative of the Scandinavian mystery/thriller genre as a whole, then I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. Not sure whether Indridason or translator are to blame for the flat, repetitive, passive tense sentences (ex: "He saw he was dead") that, for me, seriously deadened the affect of the characters and the author's attempts at building suspense. Nor was the "shopworn knight errant" inspector hero - whose empathy towards the weak is matched by his brutality towards the wicked - anything new; U.S. pulp writers nailed that one long ago. Add to this a plot that is neither mysterious nor thrilling, and extremely lame use of imagery (rainstorms infallibly worsen every time the inspector's outlook turns moody) and you'll have a sense of what you're in for. Based on the blurbs, the critics seem enamored of the novel's genetics subplot, but I felt the book didn't break any ground that hasn't already been widely - and more provocatively - explored by other writers.

I gave this a try because every other book on the best seller list these days seems to be lifted from this genre. Alas, however, this is going straight to my discard pile, and I'm headed back to authors like Martin Cruz Smith, whose chilly mystery/thrillers set in Russia unfailingly deliver complex characters, subtle plots, and genuine moral ambiguity, all wrapped up in gorgeous prose. ( )
  Dorritt | Jan 29, 2015 |
This very intriguing novel introduces Inspector Elendur Sveinsson of the Reykjavik Police Department. Erlendur is in the throes of middle age and not in the best of health. He lives alone and has two troubled children, including a daughter who's in debt to drug dealers.

An elderly man is murdered in his basement apartment and the killer leaves an enigmatic note lying on the body. Some of Erlender's colleagues believe that the victim, whose name is Holberg, was killed by someone attempting to rob him. But the note makes no sense in that context and Erlendur continues to look for another explanation.

He discovers that over forty years earlier, Holberg had been accused of a particularly vicious rape but had not been convicted of the crime. Erlendur begins unraveling the tangled history of the victim's early life in the hope that it will shed some light on the mystery surrounding his death. The investigation resonates deeply in Erlendur's own life as he wrestles with the questions of family, love and obligation, both personally and in the crime he is investigating.

Because of the setting and the general circumstances of Erlendur's life, this book has a very Scandinavian feel about it. It takes a while for the momentum to gather, but once it does the reader is off on a compelling ride through a very tangled and unusual mystery. It's hard to imagine a crime fiction reader who won't put this book down anxiously awaiting the arrival of the second Erlendur case. ( )
  Hanneri | Oct 28, 2014 |
Clearing up the wrongs of the past seems the overarching theme of the Erlendur series; I've only read one before (Hypothermia), but blurb for most of the others points to something similar. When your entire country has a population around the same as Reading or Birkenhead*, with a considerably lower crime rate than either, the need for historic cases and old remains to add complexity makes sense if you're going to make even a slight nod to realism in detective novels.

Read slowly, the simple sentence structures reminded me of older children's and YA books. But that also means this stuff can be read three-quarters asleep without effort, or, more awake, at a speed where you're aware of taking in meaning rather than specific words - blink and you've read 20 pages by accident. It is entirely clear. There are none of the distracting stylistic annoyances of, say, Harry Potter. From A to B with zero fuss. One possible blunder: a genetic disease, with apparently dominant inheritance, which is passed father to daughter, in which males get minor symptoms and females die before they are old enough to have children, is unlikely. A condition in which males were worse affected would be more realistic, but would have stymied the plot as it would have had to be recessive. But hey, it is fiction.

Possibly my favourite thing about this book was the maps. FOUR maps! (Two are inset.) And every single location mentioned in the novel is on at least one of the maps! Amazing. (I know because I looked - I always like to have a sense of where it's all happening spatially. I feel much more there than with only words. Just as I've always had a map in my head of where I and people I know are, in the country or the world, I make one for characters.) If only there were maps this good with every book.

Readers bored of the stereotyped divorced, smoking, drinking, depressed lead detective maybe shouldn't prioritise the Erlendur books. I haven't read enough of those to find them obviously tiresome, and in any case I'm interested in characters who are aware of being uncomfortably close to the other side of the service they work on. Erlendur isn't an old school Sweeney style thug, but we learn that both of his twentysomething kids are addicts (one may be regarded as a misfortune...) and there's a scene where the detective loses his temper destructively.

The following paragraph is marginally spoilerish, so you may want to skip it if you mean to read the book any time soon.

As a crime novel, this was entirely serviceable, a decent read with no obvious faults, in which a nasty piece of work gets his long-awaited comeuppance and his victims get recognition, and I'd have given it four stars. But I disagree with part of the socio-political point the story makes. To put it in general terms... "Jar City" refers to old collections of organs sometimes made without consent - the British equivalent would be Alder Hey. It is presented as a parallel with the Icelandic genetic and genealogical database which made the news in the late 90s / early 2000s. But instead of attacking issues such as government control and big data, or gene patenting, the story presents gaining knowledge of a family secret as highly destructive and destabilising (more so than the secrecy itself) - rather than something to learn from, and understand and better manage one's own life and relationships with others, something that should have been known and talked about much earlier.

* current figures, CBA to dig for UK city and Icelandic numbers from 2000 when the book was published
  antonomasia | Oct 19, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 81 (next | show all)
Indridason raises in a thoroughly gripping manner not just questions of paternity in a small nation, but wider issues of the use of genetic information, culminating in an ending that proves impressively moving.
added by vancouverdeb | editTime Out - London
"This is a dark, haunting novel, with a protagonist who searches for a murderer and finds his own humanity. The emotionally wrought ending caught me off guard and touched me in a way that few mystery novels do."--
added by vancouverdeb | editThe Boston Globe
"Award-winning Iceland author Indridason makes a compelling American debut with this first in a series featuring Reykjavík police inspector Erlendur. . . . Quiet, morose, dryly witty, Erlendur makes a fine, complex companion. . . . Those who enjoy Karin Fossum, Henning Mankell, or Janwillem van de Wetering will welcome this new series."--

» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Arnaldur Indriðasonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cosimini, SilviaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Scudder, BernardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Important places
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It's all one great big bloody mire
- Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson
First words
The words were written in pencil on a piece of paper placed on top of the body.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Jar City is also published as Tainted Blood
Original title: Mýrin
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312426380, Paperback)

From Gold Dagger Award--winning author Arnaldur Indridason comes a Reykjavík thriller introducing Inspector Erlendur
When a lonely old man is found dead in his Reykjavík flat, the only clues are a cryptic note left by the killer and a photograph of a young girl's grave. Inspector Erlendur discovers that many years ago the victim was accused, but not convicted, of an unsolved crime, a rape. Did the old man's past come back to haunt him? As Erlendur reopens this very cold case, he follows a trail of unusual forensic evidence, uncovering secrets that are much larger than the murder of one old man.
An international sensation, the Inspector Erlendur series has sold more than two million copies worldwide.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:12 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson investigates the killing of a solitary man, found murdered in his Reykjavk apartment, and discovers that the dead man had been accused but not convicted of a rape forty years earlier.

» see all 5 descriptions

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