Synopsis: Siglufjörður: an idyllically quiet fishing village in Northern Iceland, where no one locks their doors – accessible only via a small mountain tunnel. Ari Thór Arason: a rookie policeman on his first posting, far from his girlfriend in Reykjavik – with a past that he’s unable to leave behind. When a young woman is found lying half-naked in the snow, bleeding and unconscious, and a highly esteemed, elderly writer falls to his death in the local theatre, Ari is dragged straight into the heart of a community where he can trust no one, and secrets and lies are a way of life. An avalanche and unremitting snowstorms close the mountain pass, and the 24-hour darkness threatens to push Ari over the edge, as curtains begin to twitch, and his investigation becomes increasingly complex, chilling and personal. Past plays tag with the present and the claustrophobic tension mounts, while Ari is thrust ever deeper into his own darkness – blinded by snow, and with a killer on the loose.
There has been a lot of talk on Twitter about the Dark Iceland series, of which Snowblind is the first instalment, and not one for missing out, I had to get stuck in to this series. Prior to starting this blog in February, I hadn’t heard of Jónasson but I am so pleased that I came across his books!
Ari Thór is a long way from home, the city of Reykjavik, and his girlfriend Kristin. Ari seems a little lost, not really knowing what he wants from life, which is in complete contrast to Kristin who has a plan and is exceptionally dedicated to her career and associated studies. Ari takes a job, it seems on a whim, in a remote village in the north of Iceland without much consideration as to what it would do to his relationship with Kristin. Siglufjörður is a quiet little fishing village where everyone knows everyone else and not particularly welcoming of newcomers – basically if you were not born in Siglufjörður then you are an outsider, regardless as to how long you have lived there!
When Ari first moves up to Siglufjörður, the detective work is scarce and it’s hard trying to uphold the law with the locals who are very set in their ways. However, the apparent suicide of a writer in the theatre changes things. The story is well woven, due to the oppressive and remote Siglufjörður, there is a definitive list of possible perpetrators who are all known to one another. Snowblind focuses on Ari’s detective skills to see past what appears to be the obvious and go against the opinion of the ‘old-school’ police who just want to tie up the loose ends and close the case as they are very wary of attracting publicity and therefore a scandal.
There is a strong cast of characters, each of them are well thought out and their backstory providing real perspective as to who they are. Iceland and it’s wintery landscape is as much of a character as the people themselves, the weather is a constant in the story and acts as a backdrop to the events as well as giving Ari a bit of cabin fever as the days never get light and the mountain pass is blocked by snow.
This is a slower pace of crime novel that I am used to however it was still had me gripped from the first pages due to it’s beautiful narrative and slow build up of tension.
A fantastic debut novel and I look forward to reading more from Jónasson. Also, Snowblind is well translated, as I was reading it I completely forgot that it wasn’t actually written in English.
About the author:
Ragnar was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, where he works as a writer and a lawyer. He also teaches copyright law at Reykjavik University and has previously worked on radio and television, including as a TV-news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. Ragnar is a member of the UK Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) and recently set up the first overseas chapter of the CWA, in Reykjavik. He is also the co-founder of the Reykjavik international crime writing festival Iceland Noir. From the age of 17, Ragnar translated 14 Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic. Ragnar has also had short stories published internationally, including in the distinguished Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in the US, the first stories by an Icelandic author in that magazine. He has appeared on festival panels worldwide, and lives in Reykjavik with his wife and young daughters.