Jar City (Reykjavik Thriller Series #1)

( 36 )

Overview

"When a lonely man is found murdered in his Reykjavik flat, the only clues are a cryptic note left by the killer and a photograph of a young girl's grave. Inspector Erlendur, who heads the investigation team, discovers that many years ago the victim was accused, though not convicted, of an unsolved crime. Did the old man's past come back to haunt him?" As the team of detectives reopen this very cold case, Inspector Erlendur uncovers secrets that are much larger than the murder of one old man - secrets that have been carefully guarded by many
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Jar City (Reykjavik Thriller Series #1)

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Overview

"When a lonely man is found murdered in his Reykjavik flat, the only clues are a cryptic note left by the killer and a photograph of a young girl's grave. Inspector Erlendur, who heads the investigation team, discovers that many years ago the victim was accused, though not convicted, of an unsolved crime. Did the old man's past come back to haunt him?" As the team of detectives reopen this very cold case, Inspector Erlendur uncovers secrets that are much larger than the murder of one old man - secrets that have been carefully guarded by many people for many years. As he follows a trail of unusual forensic evidence, Erlendur also confronts stubborn personal conflicts that reveal his own depth and complexity of character.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When a lone septuagenarian is murdered in his apartment in the Nordurmari district of Reykjavik, detective inspector Erlendur Sveinsson is called in, along with partner Sigurdur Oli and female colleague Elinborg. Everyone is related to everyone else in Iceland and refer to one another by first name, even formally. Erlendur is about 50, long divorced, with two kids in varying degrees of drug addiction. The victim, a man called Holberg, turns out to have been a nasty piece of work, and Erlendur is disgusted by the series of rapes Holberg apparently committed. The rapes and the deaths of a number of young women may be connected, and the search brings Erlendur to the forensic lab, whose old "jar city," since disbanded, held research organs. Meanwhile, Erlendur's daughter, Eva Lind, is pregnant and still using; she flits in and out of his life angrily, but may be crying out for help. Reykjavik's physicality, and the fact that crimes are relatively rare in Iceland, gives things a defamiliarizing cast. The writing, plot and resolution are nicely done, but remain fully within genre boundaries. (Oct. 11) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An Icelandic detective investigates a murder with roots in the distant past. When veteran Reykjavik police inspector Erlendur Sveinsson is called to a squalid basement flat to examine the corpse of an elderly man named Holberg, bludgeoned to death with a large ashtray, he finds on the scene a typed note with the cryptic message, "I am HIM." Murder in Iceland is rare, and Erlendur is just coordinating his probe when two other crimes demand his attention: the assault of geriatric twin sisters in their home and the disappearance of a bride shortly after her wedding. The divorced Erlendur must also struggle to get his combative, punked-out daughter Eva Lind away from her drug-drenched nightlife. The news that Holberg was arrested for rape 30 years ago sends Erlendur on a difficult search among old records and hostile, forgetful witnesses. The sexist cop who caught the original rape case insulted the victim and allowed Holberg to walk. Erlendur's colleagues Sigurdur and El'nberg are annoyed at the drudgery involved in this effort, but eventually the team finds other victims of Holberg who hold the key to the killing. And Erlendur's relationship with Eva takes a significant step forward when she helps crack the case of the runaway bride. The author's American debut, winner of the 2002 Nordic Crime Novel Award, is a model puzzle presented with clarity and crisp economy.
From the Publisher
“A fascinating window on an unfamiliar world as well as an original and puzzling mystery.” 
—Val McDermid

“A chilling read.”
—The Times

“A chilling Icelandic saga of the DNA age. This careful, sparsely-written book operates at a deeper level than most crime fiction.”
—Independent

"Highly recommended... thoroughly gripping... impressively moving."
Time Out

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312426385
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 9/19/2006
  • Series: Reykjavik Thriller Series , #1
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 110,503
  • Product dimensions: 5.48 (w) x 10.88 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Meet the Author

ARNALDUR INDRIDASON was born in 1961, the son of an Icelandic author. Having worked for many years as a journalist and reviewer for an Icelandic newspaper, he began writing novels. He won the Nordic Crime Novel Award for Tainted Blood (originally published in the UK under the title Jar City) and, in the following year, for its sequel, Silence of the Grave. Tainted Blood is his first novel to be translated into English.

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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

1. At the beginning of the book (pages 4–5), Erlendur says that being a detective means investigating the obvious whereas forensics handles the mysterious. Why do you think he might have said this? What makes forensic evidence more mysterious? If this is so, why do mysteries usually concentrate on the detective rather than the crime scene investigator?

2. Erlendur has a history of family difficulties, particularly with his daughter Eva Lind. Do you think that his past helps him as a detective or is it a distraction? What do you think motivates Erlendur, what drives him?

3. How would this story have been different if it were set in America instead of Iceland? Would the characters be different? Would the crime have been different? Would the investigation methods have been different? What about this case is peculiar to Iceland? What’s different about an Icelandic murder?

4. On page 124, Erlendur’s mentor Marion Briem told him about Holberg: "Don’t let him kill any part of you that you don’t want rid of anyway." What do you think he meant? Why was it Holberg that Marion warned Erlendur about and not just the case in general? How could Holberg have that kind of power over him?

5. Given all that is revealed about Holberg throughout the story, everything we know about his past, was Holberg’s murder justified? Was justice served? Would Holberg simply have gotten away with his crimes otherwise? Was there any good in Holberg?

6. If you were in Erlendur’s place, would you have made some of the same gambles in pursuing the case? Would you have sent Elínborg and Sigurdur Óli to comb through the residents of Húsavík to look for women who might have been raped by Holberg? Would you have had the floor of Holberg’s apartment excavated?

7. What is the relationship in Erlendur’s mind between his daughter Eva Lind and Audur, Holberg’s daughter who died when she was four?

8. What kind of a detective is Erlendur? What sort of a character is he? How does he resemble the people around him? Is he more like the criminals or more like the victims? Could you imagine Erlendur ever doing some other job besides being a detective? If Erlendur had committed the murder, how might he have done things differently?

9. In another episode of the book, Erlendur comes across a case of the woman who had run away from her wedding. What is the parallel between this situation and the case of Holberg’s murder?

10. Was Katrín right to keep the origins of Einar secret? Should she have told her husband? How do you think she managed to raise her son without treating him differently? Would there have been a way to tell him that could have avoided all of this?

11. On page 256, Erlendur compares the genetic family tree compiled by the Genetic Research Centre to the message tree that he saw at the wedding. Why does he make this comparison?

12. On page 258, Erlendur compares the database of the genealogical histories of people in Iceland with the secret collection of organ samples that he found earlier. He calls them both "jar cities." Why does he think they are both jar cities? Why is this the title of the book? Is it ethical to have either of these collections when nobody knows about them and nobody has access to them?

13. There’s a lot of talk in the story about how things used to be during the time of the rape, particularly with the stealing of organ samples from hospitals and the treatment that Kolbrún received when she reported the rape. What is the parallel between these two things? What does it say about what things were like in Iceland at the time? How had things changed by the time Erlendur was investigating Holberg’s death?

14. Ultimately, Einar murdered Holberg and then committed suicide because he couldn’t stand the thought that he was like Holberg, or, rather, that he felt he actually was Holberg. In what ways does Einar seem like Holberg? In what ways does he seem more like his mother? Is he justified at all in his fear? Or has he simply been too devastated by recent events to think clearly?

15. How might Einar have gotten away with the murder? Did he want to? Or did he want to get caught? If you had been in his place would you have reacted the way he did? Or would you have tried not to think about it?

16. Why does Eva Lind want to name her child Audur? What parallel is there between her unborn child and Audur? Why does she feel a connection between the two?

17. In the end, the case is solved, Erlendur finds out that his chest pains are not some mortal illness, and he seems to patch things up with his daughter. How might have solving this case and entering into the sordid world of Holberg’s crimes helped him?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 36 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(14)

4 Star

(17)

3 Star

(5)

2 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 36 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 10, 2009

    Fascinating

    This is the 3rd of Arnaldur Indridason books I have read. All the 3 have been fascinating. Indridason's main detective is a troubled and flawed man, yet you find him fascinating. He makes the reader and the other characters he encounters uncomfortable, yet people reveal more to him than perhaps they should. Besides the powerful characters, the description of Iceland describe a land of beauty, mystery and toughness.
    I found myself thinking about the characters long after I finished the book.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 27, 2011

    Neat, bright mystery crime novel

    The author conceived this fair and balanced plot like a puzzle where all the pieces fit snugly, no pitfalls, no loose ends
    Keeps the dramatic intensity all the way to the end. The story is the star and exceeds the development of the characters, and the portrayal of the settings and landscapes where the events occur. Throughout the read, one can learn that tiny far off Iceland is a country suffering the same myseries witnessed in the Continet. Overall a nice enjoyable book for this genre

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 15, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Very cold, very Icelandic?

    I read this when it first came out in the U.S. in 2005 and remember it was so spare in almost every way. It seemed as though the lives described were there in the bare essentials, but there was nothing extra to alleviate the grimness of everyday living. In this story the murder of a roué is connected with another mystery: a rare genetic brain disease has been passed on to another dying child. A aging police inspector investigates, while confronting his own personal demons in the form of a drug-addicted daughter. It is a nuanced portrait, but very grey--read this when you feel a need for stark realism but have a firm grip on what is important in your own life.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Well done!

    I really enjoy criminal mystery novels and read all the Menkell, "Wallander" series set in Sweden. This read from Iceland seemed somewhat similar and thankfully was also a great one! The main character is interesting and honestly, the second and now third books in the series are even better. They flesh out the main character even better. The setting is great and the mysteries great too. Enjoy!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 24, 2009

    grim with damaged people

    Even though the story is rather sad with quite a few unlikable people, the plot line is very good and the locale fitting. Iceland is perfect for the action. I completely enjoyed it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    terrific Icelandic police procedural

    In an apartment in Reykjavik, Iceland, Detective Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson looks at the corpse of a seventy years old man whose head suffered quite a blow when his partner Sigurdur Oli and a female officer Elinborg arrive at the scene. The murder object is a large ashtray and the killer left behind the note ¿I am HIM¿ adding to the sleuth¿s thought that a crime of passion occurred. When the victim turns out to be a loner Holberg, who allegedly raped and killed many young females, Erlendur believes passion was actually vengeance. The three cops quickly learn of a documented alleged Holberg rape case thirty years ago in which the victim reported the crime, but the cop in charge let the accused go while blaming the woman. Meanwhile as the police dig through mountains of records to find more information on Holberg¿s horrific past, Erlendur struggles with his thirty years old pregnant daughter Eva Lind, who uses drugs in spite of the impact on her unborn he also worries about his other offspring Sindri Snaer who is barely doing better than her sibling. Two new cases involving an assault of elderly twin sisters and the disappearance of a bride just after she married somewhat pulls Erlendur off the homicide. Still he believes the past holds the key to solving the murder mystery so unhappy Sigurdur and less enthusiastic Elinborg dig through mountains of files seeking names linked to Holberg who Erlendur hopes are available for questioning. --- This is a terrific Icelandic police procedural starring a dedicated detective whose personal problems with his daughters lifestyles distracts him somewhat, but not enough from trying to solve the three cases. Readers will appreciate the realism of Sigurdur and Elinborg as they do the menial but critical tasks of going through old files. The vanished bride case contains a fun twist that adds to a wonderful mystery novel. --- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2013

    International noir

    Good plot! Suspenseful

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  • Posted March 13, 2013

    not bad

    not bad

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2012

    If you want to be read to another world

    Superb story that takes the reader to a different world.

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  • Posted January 24, 2011

    Good Winter Read

    Well written, if a bit on the dark side, but completely consistent throughout. The characters were well developed, the story a bit gory, the mystery evolved at a good pace. Looking forward to reading the next in the series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2009

    Interesting murder mystery in a differnt location

    It was a good read, especially since I read it while vising Reykjavik and the surrounding areas. It took a while in the story to understand the title and what a jar city was. It has some twists and turns in the plot that keep it somewhat suspenseful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2009

    So - So

    A little background on the dna study in Iceland before reading would have been more helpful than the information about names. The plot was fine but ancillary characters just led to confusion. I would not read another in the series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2007

    A reviewer

    Having read the Silence of the Grave, I was interested in other works by this author. I wasn't disappointed in Jar City. I didn't put it down! He is now an author that I look for and I am very excited that his series will continue.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2009

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 36 Customer Reviews

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