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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Jar City

Arnaldur Indriðason

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To purchase Jar City

Title: Jar City
Author: Arnaldur Indriðason
Genre: Novel
Written: 2000 (Eng. 2004)
Length: 275 pages
Original in: Icelandic
Availability: Jar City - US
Jar City - UK
Jar City - Canada
La Cité des Jarres - France
Nordermoor - Deutschland
  • A Reykjavik Thriller
  • Icelandic title: Mýrin
  • Translated by Bernard Scudder
  • Mýrin was made into a film, directed by Baltasar Kormákur, with Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson as Erlendur

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Our Assessment:

B+ : solid, fast police procedural

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Neue Zürcher Zeitung . 16/8/2003 Aldo Keel
Sunday Telegraph . 18/7/2004 Susanna Yager
TLS . 19/11/2004 Carolyne Larrington

  From the Reviews:
  • "This moody policeman has something in common with Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander." - Susanna Yager, Sunday Telegraph

  • "Although Jar City doesn't have the psychological depth of, say, When the Devil Holds the Candle in Karin Fossum's Inspector Sejer series, which has been aptly compared with Ruth Rendell, Arnaldur's characters have staying power." - Carolyne Larrington, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Jar City is the third Inspector Erlendur book -- but the first to be translated into English. The Icelandic inspector is something of a loner -- "roughly 50, divorced many years earlier, a father of two". The former wife and son are out of sight in this volume, but junkie daughter Eva Lind does show up (along with her problems -- she owes money to unsavoury characters, one of her friends just high-tailed it from her own wedding, and she finds herself knocked up).
       Called to what looks like just another "pathetic Icelandic murder" -- an old man whose head has been bashed in by an ashtray --, Erlendur finds things are far more complicated than they look. The victim, Holberg, raped a woman years earlier, but wasn't convicted of the crime. The woman had a daughter, but she died of a brain tumour when she was still very young. And it seems that Holberg may have raped another woman .....
       Indriðason conceives a pretty decent procedural, with Erlendur hunting down the decade-old clues (and talking to a lot of people who really don't want to talk to him). The 'Jar City' of the (English) title refers to medical specimens -- and there's a more modern counterpart to go with it, the Genetic Research Centre, a database of all the medical records of all Icelanders -- or, as Erlendur sees it:

Tragedies, sorrows, and death, all carefully classified in computers. Family stories and stories of individuals. Stories about me and you. You keep the whole secret and can call it up whenever you want. A Jar City for the whole nation.
       Which poses some problems, as the book shows ....
       Jar City is a fairly breezy thriller, offering some nice atmosphere (Holberg's home, in particular) and some decent encounters and tension, though all in all it's a pretty superficial affair: Indriðason doesn't dig too deep (and, appropriately, the two instances of things getting literally dug up are pretty horrific) and doesn't make too much out of, for example, the genetic angle. It's too bad: the good material could have easily used considerably more exposition (about both the implications of the Genetic Research Centre, as well as Erlendur's personal circumstances, especially). Still, it's an enjoyable enough novel and decent read.

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Jar City: Reviews: Mýrin - the film: Arnaldur Indriðason: Other books by Arnaldur Indriðason under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Icelandic author Arnaldur Indriðason was born in 1961.

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© 2006-2008 the complete review

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