I have to confess that I have a soft spot for mysteries set in offbeat foreign locales (probably because I so enjoy off-the-beaten-path travel). I know what you're thinking: all good suspense novels should be staged in L.A. or New York or possibly Florida. Alexander McCall Smith changed all that by setting his marvelous mysteries in Botswana, of all places. Nowadays, Henning Mankell offers atmospheric whodunits set in northern Sweden, A.C. Baantjer's Inspector DeKok plies his trade in the red-light district of Amsterdam, and Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti navigates the canals of Venice. Enter author Arnaldur Indridason and his first novel to be published in the U.S. (translated from his native Icelandic), Jar City. Detective Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson is an intense and introspective protagonist: a solver of crimes in Iceland, a country largely free of criminal activity; a more-or-less straight arrow with two addicted children (one of whom is pregnant and still using). The descriptions of Reykjavik and the surrounding area, though not central to the narrative, are fascinating in their own right, and the plotting is riveting. Look for Indridason to appear on critics' shortlists for best new author of the year, best mystery novel and so forth. Best of all, the sequel to Jar City, titled Lady in Green, is due out shortly.

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