Vanessa's Reviews > Jar City

Jar City by Arnaldur Indriðason
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's review
Apr 23, 2010

liked it
bookshelves: cols-lib, read-in-2010

Arnaldur Indridason (a name I just retyped 4 times before I spelled it right) is a best selling writer in Iceland. I had a little trouble getting into this story at first but once I did, I did enjoy it and had to barrel through the last 100 pages to find out what happened. The way he wrapped everything up was fairly clever, making good use of Iceland's history, weather and demographics. His protagonist is Erlander, a Reykjavik detective investigating the murder of an old man that looks fairly unremarkable except nothing is stolen and an odd note is left behind. His colleagues point out repeatedly that murder in Iceland isn't very complicated but this one turns out to be, taking the protagonist all over the icy autumnal countryside and back 40 years to investigate a series of unprosecuted rapes and the unsolved disappearance of an unexceptional thug. Bonus: the book contains maps.

I also learned most Icelandic names are patronymics, which is why most last names end in -son or -dottir (like Bjork Gudmundsdottir.) As a result, everyone goes by their first name and the phone books listings are first name first.

I am deducting a star because the dialog could be a bit clunky in places which I am guessing is due to the translation (although I don't mean to be ungrateful that someone bothered to translate it from the Icelandic, a particularly difficult Germanic language to learn.) And as I said, the story was a wee bit slow to get rolling and it took a while to get a feel for the main character who I feared was the stock divorced misanthropic detective. By the end though, I did like how Indridason wasn't afraid to occasionally make him unlikable and I did feel I understood him a bit better-although I would have liked more detail filled in on him and his colleagues. This book is part of a series. I think there were other books in the series that precede this one but none translated into English thus far.

I also read this book was made into a movie that did well internationally so someone bought the rights to make a US version. Which they are setting in New Orleans. I really can't imagine how they'll pull that off for a variety of reasons, starting with the obvious lack of empty frozen vistas.
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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Seosamh Actually the second 'd' should be 'ð' (eth, pronounced like the 'th' in 'the)

Vanessa Do you mean in "Indridason?" ("Indrithason"?)

Seosamh Vanessa wrote: "Do you mean in "Indridason?" ("Indrithason"?)"

Yes, that's right. Like Icelandic, Old English had both ð (edh) and þ (thorn), but in the Middle English period they were replaced by 'th'.

Vanessa Actually I think I had seen his name spelled with that Old English character now that you mention it. Anyways, thanks for the tip.

message 5: by Mary (new)

Mary **spoiler alert**
You know, I'd have liked this one better but for the Dreaded Coincidence. Loved the detective's wayward daughter, and the son and dottir suffixes, but a coincidence for plot's sake is a deal-breaker for me. Maybe I'm too sensitive about this, as it keeps coming up again and again--thus ruining my reading pleasure.

Vanessa It comes up a lot in mysteries. My tolerance for it depends on how well the rest of the book is handled.

I saw the movie of this on IFC (which was like the highest grossing movie from Iceland ever or something) and they dropped the whole plot about his daughter and the runaway bride.

message 7: by Mary (new)

Mary Ah, you should read Claire DeWitt. A recurring line throughout: "There are no coincidences"

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