Archive for the ‘Jar City’ Category

ReykjavikNightsThe year is 1974 in this Inspector Erlendur series prequel. Erlendur is a new traffic cop on the night shift driving around with two partners. Called to a domestic dispute, Erlendur is reminded of a homeless alcoholic named Hannibal who drowned in a nearby pond the previous year. It was thought he was drunk and accidentally drowned. Erlendur is intrigued by unsolved cases, especially disappearances. Having met Hannibal several times on his beat, on his own time Erlandur begins looking at the police files regarding the drowning and searching for clues. As he talks to more and more people, relatives and fellow street people, he gains some knowledge of Hannibal and his life.

Erlendur also remembers that a young woman disappeared at the same time as Hannibal’s drowning and has not been heard from since. She apparently was out drinking with some friends, left the bar and never made it home. Erlendur begins investigating this disappearance as well, talking to her friends and her husband.

Reykjavik Nights is not as riveting as previous Erlendur books, nor is it as dark. However, young Erlendur is still a solid character, socially awkward, a loner, driven even then. He’s more of a Columbo-like character, always coming back with another set of questions. Readers gain some insight into Erlendur’s character and his entrée into criminal investigation. They get a smidgen of a taste as to why he is obsessed with disappearances. His police partners play minimal, more comical roles in this foray. There is a hint of romance, as well.
At the end, Erlendur meets his future CID mentor, Marion Briem, who plays key roles in his investigations. Erlendur fans as well as readers of Icelandic mysteries and police procedurals will devour the entire series. You can begin with this book or the initial first book in the series, Jar City. It doesn’t matter. You’ll soon become a fan. I read somewhere that Indridason wants to write a series of prequels and I, for one, wouldn’t mind learning about those intervening years, from young cop to seasoned veteran.

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JarCityA man is found murdered in his basement apartment, head cracked open, and Inspector Erlendur is assigned the case. The only clue: a handwritten, three word note found on the body. The murder weapon? A bloody glass ash tray is found at the scene, as well as blood found on the corner of an overturned coffee table. The motive? Unknown. In searching the apartment, Erlendur finds a blurry photo of a graveyard headstone pasted under a desk drawer. What the note and photo mean baffle Erlendur and his team, Sigurdur Oli and Elinborg.

As you may know, whenever I go to a new mystery bookstore, I ask for a must read recommendation. I went to the Mysterious Bookshop in lower Manhattan because I thought they had a good selection of pulp mysteries. Wrong! But I asked my question. The first bookseller waffled and started pulling all different types of mysteries off the shelf-none even close to the police procedurals/legal dramas I named for him.

The second bookseller when straight to Jar City; no hesitations. It was right on. Erlendur is a person. He is long-time divorced, has no relationship with his 20-something son and a very strained relationship with his drug addicted daughter. In some respects he’s the Icelandic version of Columbo; sleeps in his clothes and always looks rumpled. He’s persistent in the face of co-worker doubt. And, his far-fetched theories typically pan out.

Indridason takes Jar City into avenues not anticipated by the reader after learning about the murder, that is the investigation of a death occurring 40 years earlier. Iceland and its natives provide a very unique backdrop for this mystery.

Jar City won the Nordic Crime Novel Award and its sequel, Silence of the Grave, which I recently read, won both this award and the Gold Dagger Award. It’s nice to find a new mystery author with a unique style and not too many books in the series to catch up on. With only six or eight books, I can definitely keep up. So, if you’re looking for a good rainy mystery (it seems they were going through their version of Noah’s flood), Jar City and Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indridason.

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