Jar City

by Arnaldur Indridason

Monday, February 21, 2011

Featured image for Jar City

I’ve been challenging myself to read some new authors this year. I found the idea on a group on Goodreads to read authors with surnames starting with each letter of the alphabet. It sounded like a good idea and so far has produced a few good additions to my reading and a few rubbish ones. About what I expected. I’ll only read the one book by the rubbish ones and will be back for plenty more from the good ones (at least Tracy Chevalier, Robert Edric and Helen Garner so far). I had Arnaldur Indriðason bookmarked for the “I” slot in my challenge and I’m pleased to say that his name is going on the “good, try again” list.

This is a darkish police detective novel set in Reykjavík, Iceland. It’s the first one published in English but not the first of the series. The reader is somewhat thrown into the personal life of the main character, Erlander, without much back story - that’s fine. I find with translated works it takes me a while to forget that I’m reading a translation. I wonder if the author would really have picked that word or phrasing in English all the time. I have no knowledge of how translators work, I’m sure they are perfectly competent, I just somehow don’t trust them at first. After a while though I got absorbed in the story and forgot to look for holes in the language. Which is how it should be.

The plot here is deeper than it seemed at first and not as predictable as I thought it might be. The book is worthy of a wider audience beyond Iceland and I will certainly be reading the next installment.