Toni Osborne's Reviews > Jar City

Jar City by Arnaldur Indriðason
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Feb 02, 09

Read in January, 2008

Also published under the title "Tainted Blood"

This is the third Inspector Erlendur book but the first to be translated into English.

What seems to be like an ordinary murder of an old man whose head has been bashed in by an ashtray; things are far more complicated than they look. Many years ago the victim was accused of rape but never convicted of the crime. Did the old man's past come back to haunt him? Inspector Erlendur leads the police team and hunts down decade-old clues. They follow a trail of unusual forensic evidence that brings them around hidden paths and unexpected corners.

Erlendur's personal life is a side story in the novel. He is divorced with a strained relationship with his grown children. His daughter shows up on his doorstep once again asking for money. It appears she is trying to break her drug habit and Erlendur needs to help her.

Jar City is a skilfully crafted detective novel; it is well paced and well plotted. The author tells the tale in a straightforward manner and with very few sidebars into lives of minor characters not overloading the reader with social commentary. Some readers may not like this style, I did. His main character (Inspector Erlendur) is a complex and engaging one, a man in his 50's, in declining health, who struggles with the fact that both of his kids are drug addicts. The story revolves around the death of a child, organ removal and the use of genetic information. I can't wait to read the sequel.

Side note: if you are looking for this Icelandic author at a library you will probably find him listed under his first name, an Icelandic custom.
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