ASK Musings

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September 2020



Jar City by Arnaldur Indriðason

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for:
Fans of murder mysteries set in Iceland.

In a nutshell:
CN: Sexual Assault

Detective Erlendur is called to investigate the murder of an older man. As the investigation unfolds, he discovers a possible link to crimes the victim committed in the past.

Worth quoting:

Why I chose it:
I like mysteries set in Iceland, and this series comes generally well-reviewed.

This book didn’t exactly go where I expected it to, but it wasn’t so outlandish that one couldn’t start to figure it out. There are components that feel uniquily Icelandic (which I can’t share because spoilers), but also some common themes one would expect in a crime novel. The entire book focuses on this one murder, but there are a couple of side stories, including an exploration of Erlendur’s relationship with his daughter, who has a substance use disorder.

Indriðason’s writing style is pretty easy to follow, even for someone like me who has only been to Iceland once, is not used to the names and only has a passing understanding of the geography of the area. He’s good at describing a scene (there’s a part where they are looking closely inside a home, and I have such a vivid image of it even now), but also gets dialogue across easily – it doesn’t feel overwritten, and it seems usually like yes, these people would likely say these words. Which frankly isn’t always the case.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the Detective. Divorced, absentee father … seems like every other detective I can picture. But he doesn’t seem to be a misogynist or sexist, so that’s a nice change. He is genuinely pissed when he hears about how the sexual assault case was originally handled, and seems to have sympathy and empathy for the women he encounters in the book. But annoyingly pretty much all the women in the book that he encounters are suffering in some way. I mean, it’s a crime novel, so duh. But there is a woman detective – Elinborg – who gets some time in the book and seems competent. I’m hoping she gets more coverage in future books in the series.

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