JAR CITY by Arnuldur Indriðason

This week’s much loved crime novel is shared by Keishon whose home on the web is Yet Another Crime Fiction Blog where she discusses an eclectic mix of crime writers from early American writers to modern Scandinavians and Irish stalwarts.


Jar City1JAR CITY (aka TAINTED BLOOD in the US) is written by Arnaldur Indriðason and translated from the Icelandic by Bernard Scudder. JAR CITY is the first translated book in the series featuring Reykjavik detective Erlendur. Note on Icelandic names: according to the author, people address each other by their first names only and address very few with surnames.

This crime fiction novel is a well thought out and well written police procedural that exemplifies why I love Scandinavian crime fiction so much. From beginning to end the story had one plot twist after another to keep you turning the pages. The novel begins with Detective Erlendur investigating the murder of a 69 year old lorry driver named Holberg. He’s been found dead in his basement flat, hit over the head with an ashtray. Next to his body lies a cryptic note and in his personal effects is a picture of a young girl’s grave.

Jar City2Turns out the little girl died of a rare brain tumor. This piece of information leads Erlendur to the girl’s doctor. The doctor tells Erlendur about Jar City. It’s a storage facility where organs are collected from hospitals and kept in glass jars. But the place is now disbanded. The rest of the book has Erlendur and his team tearing up Holberg’s past to find a murder suspect with a possible genetic link. That’s the basic premise. So how did I enjoy this author and his book?

JAR CITY is a well written mystery led by an interesting protagonist. I liked Erlendur. He’s a fifty something, divorced father of two grown children. He’s also a seasoned detective who chain smokes. He has an embattled relationship with his daughter Eva Lind who flits in and out of Erlendur’s life. She’s a drug addict. Eventually the two find some middle ground with Eva Lind acting as Erlendur’s sounding board as he struggles with a case that seems to give him bad dreams at night.

What I enjoyed about JAR CITY was the tight plotting and the atmosphere of the story and of course the setting. The mood or tone is one that is bleak with the weather constantly always dark clouds and rain. There is a bit of black humor in the story to lighten up the mood as only one can when dealing with murder investigations. I liked that the villain was not a serial killer. The crime in here is instigated by rage and is well written. It’s not the usual mindless violence that you find in other mediocre crime fiction novels. This is just a smartly written crime fiction novel.

Overall, JAR CITY is a satisfactory read that delivered. If you enjoy police procedurals featuring a brooding detective with a great supporting cast and are a fan of exotic settings, then I highly recommend this author to you. My grade is a B+. Happy reading to you.


Book Details:

author: Arnaldur Indriðason (learn more at euro crime, wikipedia)
original language: Icelandic
translator: Bernard Scudder
publication date (UK): 2004

Contributor Details:

Keishon reviews and discussed the work of an eclectic mix of authors and includes Åsa Larsson, Daniel Woodrell and Jo Nesbo among her favourite writers. She is one of the people who prompted me to try, and subsequently fall in love with, the writing of Ken Bruen.

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2 thoughts on “JAR CITY by Arnuldur Indriðason

  1. I confess that I did not make it all the way through this one when I tried to read it several years ago. However, I did enjoy the movie version, which I think is very good. I’ve still got my copy around here somewhere….maybe I should give it another go. Some books take two or three tries before you find you love them.

  2. I liked this book. It required a lot of me to think about the issues, and was not a simple read. But it was a good one, and it set me on the path to read all of Arnaldur Indridason’s Erlendur series, which is a favorite of mine.
    Maxine Clarke liked Indridason’s books, too, and I’m glad this review appears here.

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