Jar City, by Arnaldur Indridason (Harvill, £10.99).
An old man is found murdered in his basement flat in a boggy suburb of Reykjavik, with a cryptic note left on his body. Detective Inspector Erendur discovers that the victim has a computer packed with pornography and a murky past that includes an accusation of rape, and the note and a photograph of a young girl's grave points to a novel and totally unexpected tragedy that intimately connects murderer and victim. Hot on the heels of their runaway success with Henning Mankell, Harvill scores another Nordic hit with this Icelandic bestseller, the first in Indridason's Reykjavik Murder Mystery series. Like Mankell's Kurt Wallander, Erendur is a downtrodden civil servant who spends his life tidying up human nastiness while musing over his own mortality and troubled relationships, but he's edgier and more confrontational, and more than willing to use cutting-edge forensic techniques to get his man. There's an authoritative depiction of the seedier side of Reykjavik, and a real-life project to map the genomes of all of Iceland's population is nicely woven into the plot; a contrived ambiguity about the sex of Erendur's mentor is the only clumsiness in this fine debut.
First appeared in Crime Time 40.
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