Monday, April 26, 2010

Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason

21. Jar City (also known as Tainted Blood; original Icelandic name was Myrin) - third in Inspector Erlendur series
by Arnaldur Indridason
translated from the Icelandic by Bernard Scudder
mystery, 2000
finished, 4/17/10

If you've read my letters for a while, you may have picked up two things about me. One is that I am not a particularly fast reader. I seem to stay steady at four-six books per month depending on kind and length of book. And two is that I tend to shy away from disturbing subject matter. Well, as they say, rules are meant to be broken. I couldn't put this book down. I began on a snowy Friday afternoon, and finished just after midnight on Saturday morning, with breaks for supper and watching The Beiderbecke Tapes (which I love). And the book is full of all sorts of incidents, descriptions, horrors that I usually cannot read. I thought it was excellent despite a number of quite appalling situations.

The story begins with three incidents: the murder of a man in his late sixties, an assault on elderly twin sisters, and the disappearance of a new bride from her wedding reception. Are they connected in any way? Incidents from forty years ago come into play.

Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson is around fifty years old, divorced, eats poorly, and has troubles with his family. His son has been in rehab several times, and his daughter is an addict. He blames himself because he left the family home when she was very little. But the way she speaks to him! She makes Major Pettigrew's son seem angelic in comparison. :<) The writing, and the translation, are simply excellent. It reminded me a bit of Hemingway.
He took his meal out of the microwave and sat at the kitchen table. It was a one-bedroom flat filled with books wherever there was any room to arrange them. Old family photographs hung on the walls showing his relatives in the East Fjords, where he was born. He had no photographs of himself or of his children. A battered old Nordmende television stood against one wall with an even more battered armchair in front of it. Erlendur kept the flat reasonably tidy with a minimum of cleaning.

A movie has been made but isn't yet available in the US. I have it in the saved section in my Netflix queue. I can imagine this story would make a fantastic movie. My only acquaintance with Iceland previous to this book was the film, The Girl in the Café with the always excellent Bill Nighy, and a favorite actress, Kelly MacDonald. It made Iceland look so very appealing to me.

The author has a note at the beginning about Icelandic names which is fascinating, and there are great maps at the front of the book which were very helpful. The country, the names are all so new to me, and I so enjoyed my time in Iceland. The minute I finished Jar City, I ordered the next two in the series from The Book Depository. That's the highest praise I can give a series. I can't wait to continue, and I even might read this one again because it was so, so good. There's an interview from four years ago with Arnaldur Indridason here.


  1. I, too, am not into books that go into a lot of gruesome detail; some authors seem to indulge in descriptions of the horrific events in such detail as is actually not necessary for the development of neither the story nor the character.

  2. You ordered #2 immediately??? Wow...I must look into this book. Sounds fascinating and I don't mind gruesome!

  3. Oh Nan, was this your first Indridason? Tainted Blood is the only one I haven't read yet. I can't rave enough about this series. Enjoy.

    On another note, I love the picture of Sheepy. We have our very own Sheepy here (seriously, that's his name), as my youngest daughter loves stuffed sheep. I'll try to post the picture on my next blog post for you to see our Sheepy.

  4. I'm shocked that you read this, Nan! :-)

    Every rule is meant to be broken. The author of THE TRICKING OF FREYA, which I read a few weeks ago, gave me two Icelandic mystery authors to check out when I wrote to her. Both of them I had been aware of. One was Arnaldur Indridason. The other was Yrsa Sigurdardottir. You might check out her books as well. I keep meaning to read both of these authors.

  5. I think I'll avoid the horrors!
    Had to say though that The Beiderbecke Tapes is one of my favourite series *ever*.

  6. I've read Arnaldur Indridason before and I do love his discription of Iceland. I did love the series on TV some years ago of The Beiderbecke Affair. One of my favourite series of all time. I'm always looking for the DVD on this series but haven't come across one yet.

  7. I'm hesitant to start another series, but your praise for this one may convince me... especially since you immediately ordered more (hurray for the Book Depository!!) Hadn't heard of this one before.

  8. Another mystery to add to my list! It sounds very good.

  9. I was able to order this from our local library and am looking forward to reading it. I'd never heard of this author, so thank you.

  10. Lovely useful review Nan, sounds like a great Winter read that I might buy and squirrel away for a night when I really want an absorbing read.

    Bill Nighy has been playing Simon Brett's actor/detective Charles Paris on Radio 4 and he is so entertaining to listen to :0)

  11. Librarian, that's why I'm sorta amazed I loved this book so much! The details did fit the story. Such a good writer!

    Staci, not just 2, but 3 as well! He's an amazing storyteller and writer. What is it with these Scandinavians?! :<)

    Yes, raidergirl! I'm with you in your raves!
    My sheepy thanks you. :<)

    Me too, Kay! And that I couldn't put it down. Whew! I will look into the other author immediately!

    Call me madam, I'm so surprised I could bear it, but it wasn't as bad as many other books, I'm sure. I'm maybe more sensitive than some because I've got quite a good imagination. :<) I'm not creeped out as I think back on the book, and honestly would like to read it again. He's a really good writer, and Erlendur is an appealing fellow. Ah, the Beiderbecke series. I'm waiting now for The Beiderbecke Connection to become available at Netflix. I've loved James Bolam since When the Boat Comes In - I'm sure you've seen it. And he is fantastic, as is everyone else, in New Tricks! NT is just about my favorite series ever.

    Jennifer, the series is available at Netflix - at least the first two. As I wrote to Call me madam, I'm waiting for the last one to be available. I love Bolam and Barbara Flynn. I first met her in Family at War. Did you ever see that fantastic series?

    JoAnn, you'll love it, I'm quite, quite sure!!

    Kristi, I think you're going to enjoy it! He's a really good writer.

    Les, I can't seem to get enough of these Scandinavians, and thankfully there are lots of writers and books!

    Val, a great idea!! Have you seen The Girl in the Café? It is available from Netflix.

  12. I'm not into gruesome either. I want something to escape to not escape from.

  13. Jodi, I understand completely! Yet I still enjoyed the book. Go figure. :<)

  14. I know what you mean about not being able to read certain things. My own problem is murder stories involving children, or where children are kidnapped. It's too easy to think of my own grandchildren. Anyway, I digress, I have this book on my tbr pile so I didn't read all of your review. Will come back and read your thoughts when I've read it. Glad it's so good!

  15. Cath, I feel the same way, and so many books feature women and children in trouble. There are a couple short scenes that I read over quickly in this book. :<) I think you'll like it though.


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