Escaping to Iceland with Arnaldur Indriðason

I’ve had the concentration of a goldfish over the past week, so I abandoned all my reading challenges and reached for something less challenging, yet no less brilliant than my usual reading fare. Having rediscovered my love of murder mysteries earlier this year with Ragnar Jonasson’s dark Iceland novels Snow Blind and Night Blind, I decided to check out the highly acclaimed Reykjavik Murder Mysteries by Arnaldur Indriðason.

Jar City (2010, translated by Bernard Scudder) proved to be the perfect balm for my agitated mind. First off, the inclusion of maps in books is always a winner with me, and I spent an age over those before I’d even read a word, trying to figure out the location of my favourite Icelandic duckpond  webcam. Then when I started to read (still none the wiser on the duckpond), the plot was immediately gripping and I felt in safe hands with Detective Erlendur and his team.

The plot is unusual in that it only really works because of it’s Icelandic setting. Jonasson’s novels are also bound to the land in which they are set, with wild terrain and hostile weather creating an overwhelming sense of claustrophobia, but while landscape does play its part in Jar City,  it is the sparsity of the Icelandic population that plays a central role in Indriðason’s thriller.

Like many fictional detectives, Erlendur’s successes at work are cast into shadow by his less than happy homelife. While he can solve a complicated murder case with his brilliant mind, he is helpless to know how to communicate with his troubled daughter. I found the unfolding of their relationship to be subtly nuanced and believable.

It seems only fitting to write about an Icelandic novel at a time when against all odds, Iceland have been extraordinarily successful, heartwarming and highly entertaining in the Euros 2016. Alas, it seems to was too much to hope for a Wales v Iceland final, as at time of writing, (I have the match on in the background) the score stands at 5:2 to France, as the final minutes tick away to the final whistle.