Jar City Summary & Study Guide

Arnaldur Indridason
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Jar City Summary & Study Guide Description

Jar City Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason .

Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason is set in Iceland. The story follows Erlendur, a no-nonsense detective in the police department, as he and his team search to find the person who killed Holberg, a man with a dark and disturbing past. Their investigation focuses on finding Holberg’s rape victims and travelling down the darkest roads of this man’s past to uncover his killer.

The novel begins with Erlendur and his team investigating the place where Holberg was murdered, his own home. His home looks fairly normal except for a note left on the body that reads, “I AM HIM.”

Erlendur receives a visit at his him from his daughter, Eva Lind, who is a drug addict. She begs him for money. Then, she tells him that his ex-wife asked him to look in to her friend’s missing daughter, who ran away from her own wedding. Finally, she tells her father that she is pregnant.

Erlendur and Sigurdur Óli begin the investigation into Holberg’s death. They speak with two women who were attacked by a man in an army jacket, leading Erlendur to wonder if their assailant might be Holberg’s murderer.

The detectives speak with people who live in Holberg’s apartment building and learn that he kept to himself most of the time, but had a particular interest in the stewardesses who flew with a pilot who lives in the building. He also had a strange smell coming from his apartment for years that he never fixed.

Erlendur also begins investigating the case of the runaway bride, Disa Rós, and discovers that she left a note that says, “HE’S A MONSTER. WHAT HAVE I DONE?” (p. 45).

Erlendur returns to Holberg’s home to try to find more clues about their murderer or the intentions behind the murder. Erlendur finds a picture of a gravestone belonging to a young girl named Audur in a locked drawer of Holberg’s desk. The team learns that the girl died of a brain tumor and that her mother committed suicide three years after.

Erlendur receives a call from his mentor in the police force, Marion Briem. Marion tells him that Holberg is believed to have raped Kolbrún, Audur’s mother, in 1963, though he was never convicted of it, and that Audur may have been his child. This leads Erlendur to talk to Kolbrun’s sister, Elín, who is reluctant to speak to the police because of the way her sister was treated during the rape investigation.

When Erlendur speaks with Rúnar, the investigating officer of the rape case, he learns that the rape case was mishandled because Rúnar did not believe her and that he destroyed the only evidence of the rape. Erlendur returns to Elín’s house and convinces her that he is nothing like Rúnar, so she tells him about the rape.

Erlendur goes back to his flat and finds Eva Lind there. She tells him that she is going to keep the baby.

During the murder investigation, the detectives discover that someone had been calling Holberg frequently during his final days and Holberg was bothered by the calls. They also find a great deal of pornography on Holberg’s computer.

Erlendur and Sigurdur Óli go to visit a man named Ellidi who was a friend of Holberg’s. He tells them that Holberg raped another woman in Húsavik.

Erlendur travels to see Frank, Audur’s doctor, who had assumed that Audur was dealing with headaches until he noticed other symptoms, but by then it was too late. There was talk of a genetic disease after the autopsy had been performed, but those ideas never made it into the autopsy report.

Erlendur and the team create a list of women who had a child shortly after the time frame they were given of when the rape in Húsavik occurred. While they are creating the list, Ellínborg tells them that Grétar, another friend of Holberg’s, had suddenly disappeared years ago and has not been seen since.

Erlendur returns to Elín’s house and asks about Kolbrún and Audur’s relationship. He learns that Kolbrún thought the world of her daughter and was very protective of her. Erlendur informs her that they have to exhume Audur’s corpse to prove that she was related to Holberg. While Audur’s grave is exhumed, someone watches from a car and follows the body all the way to the morgue and then leaves.

Erlendur goes to see Grétar’s elderly mother. She says that she has not seen Grétar since the national festival and that Grétar had a passion for photography.

The pathologist at the morgue tells Elrendur that Audur’s brain is missing. Without it, he cannot give a full autopsy report or confirm that Holberg and Audur are related. Hearing this news, Erlendur goes back to Frank’s to ask where the brain may have gone. Frank suggests that the brain may have been placed in Jar City, an organ storage room.

Meanwhile, Ellínborg retrieves Grétar’s belongings from his sister’s home. The only thing of value he owns is a camera. Forensics determines that Grétar’s camera had taken the picture of Audur’s grave.

Erlendur finds Eva Lind and the runaway bride in a drug den after talking to Eva Lind’s drug dealer. Eva Lind tells her father that Disa Rós’ father was the monster that her note referred to because he had been molesting her since she was a child.

Marion Briem calls Erlendur to tell him that Holberg’s home had been built on marshland. This means that the ground has been slowly lowering over the years and has likely left a large gap in between the floor and the ground. Erlendur and the team take this lead and begin looking through the gap to see if Holberg hid Grétar’s body in the gap.

While they are searching, Erlendur receives a call from Elín saying that a young Holberg was watching her house. Erlendur believes that this may be the child of Holberg’s Húsavik rape victim.

Erlendur travels to the University of Iceland to meet with the head of the medicine department. According to the pathologist, this is where the files from Jar City went after it closed down. Erlendur learns that a doctor by the name of Eydal is the last known person to possess the brain.

Meanwhile, Elínborg finds the woman they have been looking for. Her name is Katrín and she is initially reluctant to talk to the police. She finally tells them about the rape, but is dishonest about when her third son was born.

Sigurdur Óli calls Erlendur and tells him forensics has found what they believe to be Grétar’s body in the foundation with rolls of film buried with him.

Ellínborg learns that Katrín’s third son, Einar, works at the Genetic Research Centre, an organization that is compiling a data base of the genetics of everyone in Iceland.

Erlendur and Ellínborg return to Katrín’s house to talk more about Einar. She tells them that he is Holberg’s son and that Einar had found Holberg through the database after his daughter died of the same genetic disease that Audur died from.

Sigurdur Óli and Erlendur search Einar’s apartment. He has not been home in a few days and his home is cluttered with scientific books, magazines, and his walls are covered in the same phrase that was left at Holberg’s apartment.

Erlendur receives a call that Audur’s body and coffin are missing. Erlendur knows that Einar has taken them and heads to where Audur was buried. While in-route to the graveyard he gets a call from Sigurdur Óli that they have found a sawed off barrel of a shotgun at Einar’s house; they assume he has the rest of the shotgun.

Erlendur finds Einar at Audur’s grave and Einar tells him what happened the night of Holberg’s death while they bury Audur in her grave. Einar shoots himself near the end of the burial and Erlendur finishes up the job.

The book ends with Erlendur at home talking to Eva Lind about her baby. He recommends that she name it Audur.

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