Bleak atmosphere but the writing and storytelling are excellent

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Inspector Erlendur returns in this gripping Icelandic thriller When a skeleton is discovered half-buried in a construction site outside of Reykjavík, Inspector Erlendur finds himself knee-deep in both a crime scene and an archeological dig. Bone by bone, the body is unearthed, and the brutalizing history of a family who lived near the building site comes to light along with it. Was the skeleton a man or a woman, a victim or a killer, and is this a simple case of murder or a long-concealed act of justice? As Erlendur tries to crack this cold case, he must also save his drug-addicted daughter from self destruction and somehow glue his hopelessly fractured family back together. (From Goodreads)

***Spoilers you have been warned***

I loved Jar City because of the dark bleak mood setting that’s described in Erlandur’s world. This one proves to be just the same. Coupled with a well written mystery that goes back into the past, this one lived up to the previous.

The book goes back and forth in time. It features on the past of a woman and her family and the horrendous abuse she endures. It leads up to the mystery surrounding the body found in the present. It’s good background storytelling and put in the missing pieces gradually as you progress in the book. Then as it goes forward to present day, you have Erlandur and his crew attempting to figure out the mystery but it also focuses on Erlandur’s past, and his attempt at patching things up with Eva Lind as she’s in a coma at the hospital.

Don’t expect twists and turns or any special revelations in this novel. It’s a subtle mystery but so well written that it’s a quick read and you’re so immersed into the book that the pages do fly by. It’s the writing style that makes it so good. The mood and setting is again, dark as usual. It’s more bleak than the previous one due to the subject matter and with what Erlandur experiences.

Admittedly, this isn’t for everyone. The physical, mental, emotional abuse featured in this book is hard to read. You sympathize with the mother and her children and Grimur is just one awful piece of garbage. Erlandur’s ghosts from the past is also revealed in this book and he’s got quite a lot of baggage on his shoulders (not including his ex wife and Eva Lind) but it gives his character more substance and he’s not just a presence in the novel. You also learn more about his colleagues (although I’d like to learn more about Elinborg) as they have their lives as well. I like this aspect of the novel as it shows what they do out of duty and gives them a more realistic human feel to the book.

Not much of a mystery but makes for really good reading, not only do the characters flesh out more but the writing is so well done. Recommended and I’ll be moving onto the next book after this one.

I give it an 8.5/10

 

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Dark mood and intricate plot makes Jar City a good read

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When a lonely old man is found dead in his Reykjavík flat, the only clues are a cryptic note left by the killer and a photograph of a young girl’s grave. Inspector Erlendur discovers that many years ago the victim was accused, but not convicted, of an unsolved crime, a rape. Did the old man’s past come back to haunt him? As Erlendur reopens this very cold case, he follows a trail of unusual forensic evidence, uncovering secrets that are much larger than the murder of one old man. (From Goodreads)

What made this book enjoyable was how such an intricate web was spun throughout the novel giving the reader enough interest to keep reading. I was not sure what to expect from this book. Although I’ve heard good things about it I didn’t think I would be so engrossed and be flying through the pages to find out what will happen next.

I’m still not sure what to think of Erlandur as a character. Like most protagonists in series like these they usually have an underlying personal issue (whether it be health, or family for example) which he does have, but his personality I can’t really quite make out. He doesn’t seem to have much of one except he cares for his daughter and her well being even though they are estranged. He does have some sense of humor and wit but overall he appears to be driven by his work and hard working to solve the crime (we all need police like these don’t we?.)

I’m liking how his relationship with his daughter is turning out. It’s nice to see them slowly step away from their estrangement and it shows they do truly care for each other even though it’s done through yelling (most families are like that though, aren’t they?) It shows a lot of tough love, and I’m hoping the best for Eva Lind in the next books (I hope she appears as I’m slowly starting to like her more.)

What I enjoyed the most of this book was the plot like I mentioned earlier. It went from point A to point B but in such a dramatic motion it certainly kept you reading to find out what was going to happen next. The mood of the story also, was excellent. It was dark, dreary, melancholy, and although not suspenseful like the majority of the crime novels, it didn’t have to be. It made the setting suitable for the plot and made it more enjoyable.

One little thing I do have to add though, is the side story with the bride. I’m not sure why that was mentioned as it had little to do with the main story and it seemed like a filler. It wasn’t necessary as the plot itself was fine without it. I also enjoyed the ending of the book. It was sad, but you came to the realization it had to come to an ending like this.

As this is book #3 in its native language, it’s considered book #1 in its’ English translation. It seems all right and nothing seems to be lacking. Perhaps a bit of backstory might have helped but it was comprehensible to read. Greatly recommended! It’s a great break from the usual detective novels we have out there.

I give it a 9 out of 10.