Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Two Thrillers: Jar City and Before I go to Sleep

Jar City: Arnaldur Indridasun
As a fan of the Killing, the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Wallander, I was delighted to find a new Just-South-of-the-Arctic-Circle  author.  Arnaldur Indridason is Icelandic and his books are set on this cold northern island with its long dark winters, twenty four hour summer days and an inward-looking population of only about 300,000 people.  Jar City is  brutal, absolutely convincing and compellingly written.  I like his characters - the morose detective whose wife divorced him years earlier; the daughter who suffers from drug addiction;  his female side-kick, and the cast of strange characters who inhabit isolated, wind-blown hamlets on the edge of the ocean.

Jar City is a lab which contains biological specimens.   When a middle-aged man is found murdered in his flat with no obvious suspects, a photograph suggests a link to the death of a small girl many years earlier (no it's not about child abuse!).   The solution to the murder and the link, lies in Jar City, courtesy of a rogue pathologist.

The book became a film a few years ago which was a Guardian/Observer film of the week and got four stars from Rotten Tomatoes.  I immediately obtained a copy of the film and watched it, but if I hadn't read the book first I would have found the film quite confusing.

Jar City is the first in a series and I'll definitely be reading more of Indridason's work.

Before I go to Sleep: S J Watson
This is a really excellent thriller.  Although the idea of using amnesia as a device has been employed several times before, the plot still had originality.  A woman wakes up every morning, with no idea who she is, or the identity of the man beside her. Every evening when she goes to sleep she knows that she will forget everything that happened during that day.

As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I’m still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me …’

 Every morning the man who shares Christine's bed tells her the story of her life so far and she has to believe him because she has no memories to contradict him.....    Cue, danger!

But there is also a doctor in her life, one who is convinced that her condition is curable.  He encourages her to keep a secret journal and telephones her every morning to tell her where to find it.  Without a memory, Christine is vulnerable, unable to make rational decisions, unable to know whether what she is being told is true.  Her journal is the only record of her life that she can trust.  And the story it begins to unfold is shocking and unexpected. 

S.J. Watson is a product of the new Faber academy for writers - it will be interesting to see how many of them make it into the best-seller charts the way this book has.  I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, found it convincing, and will happily read anything else by S.J. Watson. 


  1. Wow...they both seems interesting....

  2. Yes - these are two particularly good new authors I'll be reading more of!