Jar City (Detective Erlendur #1) by Arnaldur Indriđason (Harvill Press, 2004, 274pp.)
An old man is found murdered in his apartment. While the rest of the police force wants to chalk it up as a simple case of burglary, Detective Inspector Erlendur suspects that things are more complicated than they seem. Erlendur’s suspicions prove correct. Jar City definitely does not play out the way the reader might think. A convoluted tale of serial rape, genetic disorders, and complex family relationships, there are times when the Jar City proves downright annoying. Erlendur’s line of logic oftentimes doesn’t make sense. The clues and leads he follows don’t seem at all relevant, yet, despite the doubts of his colleagues, he always proves triumphant in the end (Deux ex machina, anyone?) Or, maybe it’s the author’s line of logic. While some of the plot developments make sense, others prove so off-the-wall as to threaten the suspension of disbelief that so key to the success of a novel. (A serial rapist who runs rampant, impregnating innocent women by the hundreds and spreading a deadly genetic disease among his descendants willy-nilly? Really?) Besides, if you kill someone who blackmails you for a crime you commit, why wouldn’t you destroy all evidence he’s collected against you? You wouldn’t just shove it in a desk drawer and hope nobody finds it, right? In addition to this, the characters prove to have very little depth to them. The villains are almost comically evil, while the good guys are…well, good. In the end, however, this reviewer does have to admit that while Jar City can be irritating, it definitely works a mystery novel: it draws you in, makes you think, keeps you guessing. In addition to this, the author makes sure to tie everything together at the end.
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