March 2009


Reykjavik
Photo of Reykjavík by Kirstín Sig used under a Creative Commons license.

Arnaldur Indridason, Jar City (Picador, 2006).
There aren’t many murders in Reykjavik, but this novel starts with a new case for inspector Erlandur, the death of an elderly man, apparently killed by an intruder in his basement apartment.  I hesitate to say much more, for fear of spoiling the plot — read the reviews linked below if you’ll take that risk — but it was terrific, and I look forward to reading more from Indridason.

Google BookSearch has a preview. Jane Jakeman (The Independent) sees elements of the sagas. Kara Kellar Bell says you learn quite a few things about Iceland reading it. But Sharon Wheeler didn’t see much of Reykjavik in it. On the other hand, Cela says Reykjavik is directly or indirectly present in almost every chapter. Becky read it before a trip to Iceland. Wendy R. loved that it rained constantly. Ali Karim said it made him cry. Jandy calls it well crafted. Steve Himmer thought the plotting and prose too conspicuous. Theodore Feit thinks Indridason is on a par with the best mystery authors. Joy wasn’t totally impressed. Alan Neale has some favorite quotes. Dove Grey Reader has spoilers. Laura Schut says Indridason has an amazing way of fitting pieces of a mystery together. DEY says much of the charm is the setting. This Iceland Review article about thrillers focuses on Indridason.  Scandanavian Review interviewed Indridason. So did Doug Johnstone, for Times Online. There’s a movie adapation, and Wendy Ide (The Independent) reviewed it (via Maxine). Finally, Michael Lewis’s article on Iceland in Vanity Fair was terrific, if barely related to the novel.

Buy it at Amazon.

The Flourish
Photo by pmorgan used under a Creative Commons license.

A.L. Kennedy, On Bullfighting (Anchor, 2001).
Struggling with writer’s block and depression, Kennedy, a Scottish novelist, took a commission to write on bullfighting, eventually resulting in this book.  Kennedy did some research and traveled to Spain, where she saw several bullfights in 1998 and 1999.  The result is a short and personal account with an expansive treatment of the cultural meaning of the sport and ritual.  Perhaps because of her own distress, Kennedy is particularly attuned to the spectacle of death in the corrida — the bull’s and often the bullfighters — and while not an expert, at least at the outset, she wrote a terrific book on the subject.

Here is Kennedy’s site, and here is Wikipedia’s bio. Stanley Conrad reviews it at Mundo Taurino, a site devoted to bullfighting — he calls On Bullfighting a valuable grounding for anyone new to the bullfights. Dea Birkett (The Independent) calls it informative, minutely observed and beautifully written, but also surprisingly cold. The book caught hold of Marla M. Mitchell’s imagination. The New Yorker appreciated brilliant descriptions of the action in the ring. Troy Patterson (EW) says Kennedy charges in with curiosity and a flinty wit. Monica Drake (The Portland Mercury) is put off by Kennedy’s writing about herself. Briar Grace-Smith (The Turbine) enjoyed it immensely (scroll down).Gavin J. Grant’s interview with Kennedy focused on the book. So did Julia Livshin’s interview with her for The Atlantic. Maud Newton interviewed her too. Kennedy wrote about an eleven-year-old matador for The Guardian about a month ago.

Buy it at Amazon.