Published in the year 2000, Jar City was an outrider for the explosion of Icelandic crime fiction which turned the previously fringe genre on the Icelandic publishing scene into a permanent stronghold. Despite the two previous books in the Detective Erlendur series which are unavailable in English, Jar City is where Arnaldur found his stride; bringing life to Reykjavík’s grey and gritty winter demeanour with a cold and economical writing style.
When an old man is found with his head caved in Reykjavík’s Norðurmýri neighbourhood, the crime seems squalid, pointless and unplanned. “A typical Icelandic murder,” Erlendur decides. But who would take the time to snuff out such an insignificant being; a sad, old man without family or friends, counting out the clock in his decrepit basement apartment? A cryptic series of clues sends Erlendur’s investigation to some unlikely places and along the way the reader gets to know what drives the dour-faced detective, whose own life seems little richer than that of the victim.
Spawning a film by Baltasar Kormákur, Jar City launched Arnaldur’s Detective Erlendur Series on its way to becoming the international crime fiction franchise that it is today.