sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

November 30, 2011

into the stacks: jar city
posted by soe 2:45 am

Jar City by Arnaldur Indriðason

From the jacket: “When a lonely old man is found dead in his Reykjavík flat, the only clues are a cryptic note left by the killer and a photograph of a young girl’s grave. Inspector Erlendur discovers that many years ago the victim was accused, but not convicted, of an unsolved crime, a rape. Did the old man’s past come back to haunt him? As Erlendur reopens this very cold case, he follows a trail of unusual forensic evidence, uncovering secrets that are much larger than the murder of one old man.”

My take: Both Nan and raidergirl3 recommended the Erlendur series to me when I was seeking out Icelandic fiction to read prior to our trip, and the folks at Goodreads concurred, giving it one of their better ratings for Icelandic books. However, life being what it was, I didn’t get a chance to start it until we found ourselves sitting in Keflavik Airport for several hours the morning of our arrival. But the deserted canteen provided the perfect spot to be sucked into the riveting world of Inspector Erlendur of the Reykjavik police force, called in to investigate the apparent murder of an elderly man.

Erlendur and his two detectives search the man’s apartment and eventually turn up an old photograph, which turns out to be of a young girl’s grave. Despite his underlings’ scoffing at his hunch that the picture is important, Erlendur insists on learning more. As they follow leads, they discover that many years earlier, the girl’s mother accused the dead man of raping her after he escorted her home from a party. But both the child and her mother are now dead, so they couldn’t have murdered the man, could they?

Jar City reminds me of the Swedish Wallander series (or, at least, the tv versions of them), and there is more than a passing similarity between the two Scandinavian policemen. The scenery in both is stark, the tone tends toward the darker side of police procedurals (although not as bleak as I’d feared), and the lead characters are both a bit of a mess, having destroyed all of the relationships they’ve ever been involved in, in part, you assume, because of their devotion to their jobs. In the case of this novel, Erlendur is long-divorced with two grown children, both of whom battle addiction. His daughter, Eva Lind, claims she’s trying to get clean, but she shows up at his apartment acting strangely.

Erlendur must juggle both his personal life and his work life to try and make sense of either. But while neither is going to sort out easily or painlessly, you can’t help but root for the grizzled Icelander to come through in the end.

Pages: 290

Category: books. There is/are 3 Comments.

November 25, 2011

bil, trio, and road trip
posted by soe 12:29 pm

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! [Oops. I fell asleep without hitting publish. Happy day after Thanksgiving, too!] I haven’t forgotten about sharing the end of my trip with you. It’s just that we followed our trip to Iceland with a trip to Connecticut to spend Thanksgiving with my family.

Here are three beautiful things from the previous week:

1. My brother and his partner Matt have come east for the holiday. Although I was charmed by Matt the first time we met a couple years back, we hadn’t spent more than a couple hours together until now. I’m delighted that he really, authentically seems to be a nice guy — just the sort of person you’d hope your kid brother would end up with.

2. Our cats were super excited to have us home again, and all three of them curled up on the bed with us at night.

3. The day before we were due to head home from Iceland, we decided to rent a car and head out to see some more sights (and sites). It ended up being a really good day full of scenery, history, and bonhomie.

I hope you, too, had a Thanksgiving surrounded by those you are most grateful to have in your life.

Category: three beautiful things. There is/are Comments Off on bil, trio, and road trip.

November 20, 2011

posted by soe 11:26 pm

There are still updates and photos and a book review to share, but I have been up for many, many hours today and have traveled from one continent to another. Now I need to sleep.

Category: travel. There is/are 2 Comments.

November 19, 2011

more reykjavik ramblings: iceland, day 5
posted by soe 10:59 pm

Just a quick note with a few highlights from Friday in Reykjavik.

First thing: I found yarn. A few skeins may have jumped into a bag for me.


Then we headed out for a bite to eat. The cookie was quite good, as were our sandwiches.

It's Good Enough for Rudi

We took in some more modern art at National Gallery and then crossed the street to look at the birds at the Tjornin. We had a bit of a challenge finding the Althingishusid (Parliament House) because, honestly, it’s a little unassuming (although we had unknowingly admired its gardens our first night in town). No guards, no security (outside), no ostentation. It was refreshing, particularly because if anyone had a reason to boast about its parliament, it would be Iceland, who has the world’s oldest. (It was founded in roughly 930 A.D. and has been in this building since 1881.)

Rudi in front of the Althing

We then went to the Culture House to see the nation’s medieval manuscripts, “borrowed” for many years by Denmark. No photos were allowed of the ancient documents (understandably), so I contented myself with capturing these giant illustrations from a children’s adaptation of some of the stories.

Basement of the Culture House

Rudi and I returned to our hotel to spend an hour in its spa, where we soaked in a hot tub and got neck rubs (more luxury built into our package). It would be nice to be doted on like this regularly!

We headed back downtown for a fancy dinner at The Fish Company. Rudi was ultra-excited about this meal and I admit that I may have been less exuberant about it than I had been about some other aspects of the trip (apparently I am more in favor of fancy baths than fancy food). However, that said, it was a fantastic meal and I enjoyed every aspect of the the restaurant and our experience there — from my amuse-bouche to the skyr (an Icelandic yogurt-like cheese usually eaten at breakfast)-based dessert and pot of tea we split.

We ended up walking back to the hotel as the night was comfortable and so were we. En route, we passed several street performers (including a gifted singer) and Reykjavik’s food truck scene, three of which can (barely) be seen in the plaza below.

Reykjavik Food Truck Scene

Check out a few more shots of the day here.

Category: travel. There is/are 1 Comment.

November 18, 2011

kids’ day out: iceland day four
posted by soe 11:12 pm

On Thursday, we managed to find ourselves a restaurant frequented by Icelanders, rather than aimed at tourists. You can tell because the menu was entirely in Icelandic, which necessitated asking the woman at the counter to help us decipher it. (English is mandatory in Icelandic schools, so everyone speaks it here.)

After a delicious, healthy, and vegetarian lunch, Rudi and I ventured down into Langardalur Park to explore. We passed by the nation’s Olympic training facilities and headed around back, where we wandered through the Botanic Garden. We saw flora from around the world, a pond where one could feed ducks, and then stumbled through a garden to discover this sod house.

Traditional Icelandic House

Short of a round door, doesn’t it look like a hobbit house? No wonder this is a nation that still believes in magical peoples.

Then it was off to the zoo/petting zoo/farm animal collection. The Iceland zoo is a tiny little place and it’s probably fair to say it’s cramped and old-fashioned in the space it gives its animals. However, we were there and it’s hard to diss adorable animals.

We saw seals, who, when they dive, like to swim upside down.

Sea Lion

The highlight was definitely the arctic fox exhibit. Arctic foxes are one of only two mammals native to Iceland. All others have been imported through the years. One fox was a bit spooky and eventually sought refuge behind some rocks, but this guy looked up, checked out the weird people speaking gibberish to it, and then put his head back down. Doesn’t he look so soft?

I'm Napping

We found the zoo cat in the cow and pig barn.

What? Every zoo doesn’t have a cat?

Well, they should. This cat and one of the calves were clearly pals, as the calf just could not keep its eyes off her. I’m sure she was disappointed when the cat wanted to escort us to the sheep and goat barn.

Rudi Pets the Zoo Cat

We explored the family amusement park, which was a little spooky in its deserted, childfree winter state. However, we still took the chance to play.

Rudi Falls Off

On our way to the pool, we came across this site.

Old Laundry and Hot Spring

Turns out it’s where the hot spring used to surface. It used to house the pool and also served as a laundry facility.

The visitor passes we purchased gave us free entry into the city’s geothermal pools, so that’s how we spent the rest of the afternoon. No photos allowed there, but trust us that hot pools — whether for lounging or for paddling around in — are absolutely lovely. (They also have a fantastic three-story slide that was totally awesome.)

Anaestu grosam

After a vegetarian dinner in this fantastic restaurant run by two lovely women, Rudi and I caught a cab across town for some storytelling.

Cocoa and Cookies for Bedtime Stories

This fall, Icelanders invited visitors to explore the non-touristy side of the country via Inspired by Iceland. One of the options while we were here was to hear bedtime stories read by a local actor.

We were delighted to discover cookies and mugs of cocoa waiting for us when we arrived. We settled in and Felix soon took his seat and began reading to us.

"Once upon a time..."

He read a children’s story to us, then one of the Sagas, and concluded with the first chapter from a novel by Haldor Laxness (Iceland’s lone Nobel Prize for Literature winner). It was a perfect way to pass an evening.

We concluded the evening at a low-key cafe/coffeehouse across from where we had dinner, the most adult thing we’d done all day.

Check out some more pictures from our day here.

Category: travel. There is/are 3 Comments.

November 17, 2011

vacation, rainbow, and crunch
posted by soe 11:06 pm

Three beautiful things from the past week:

1. Time off — and in such a beautiful place — with Rudi. This will be a trip we remember for a long time.

2. Under any circumstance, a rainbow merits a mention. But particularly when it welcomes us to a foreign city.

3. Before we left home, the leaves were finally starting to fall. Crunching your way down the sidewalk made it seem autumn-like indeed.

How about you? What’s been beautiful in your world this week?

Category: three beautiful things. There is/are Comments Off on vacation, rainbow, and crunch.