Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson is a homicide detective. He isn't as rough around the edges nor is he quite as libertarian in his approach to law enforcement but Harry Bosch has got nothing on Erlendur when it comes to toting a heavy load of psychological baggage. Long divorced at age 50, Erlendur leads a lifestyle that isn't particularly healthy. He's convinced he has heart issues but, like so many misguided men, is unwilling to go to a doctor to confirm what he is convinced will be bad news. Eva Lind, his penurious, greedy, self-centered daughter is pregnant and carries her arrogant attitude in a very large chip on her shoulder.
Erlendur is investigating the murder of Holberg, an angry old man who was accused and acquitted of rape many years earlier. The only clues are an odd note apparently left by the killer ("I am HIM") and a old photograph of a young girl's grave, misplaced, lost or hidden underneath a desk drawer. "Jar City" can't really be called suspense because there's nothing of that bone-chilling anticipation or frisson of fear that readers experience from the very best suspense thrillers. It's much more of a police procedural, a top quality and utterly compelling psychological drama that follows Erlendur, who proves himself a very skilled and intuitive detective, down a very twisted but entirely realistic trail of forensic clues to a haunting, bleak and emotional climax.
"Jar City" aside from being a first-rate mystery, also delves into important, timely issues related to privacy of medical data and the use or misuse of genetic information. (For those readers that are not aware of this, because of its limited and highly isolated gene pool, Iceland is one of the world leader's in the collection of genetic information and its susbsequent use in epidemiological research related to genetic illness.) Author Indridalson also tugs mightily on his readers' heart-strings as he develops the on-again, off-again tempestuous relationship between Erlendur and his wayward daughter.
A riveting plot, a dense psychological drama, a unique setting with a very special set of localized characteristics and tense, heartbreaking emotional moments make "Jar City" a very special debut novel that deserves a space on any mystery lover's shelves. Highly recommended.