Monday, 15 June 2015

Snow Blind by Ragnar Jonasson

review by Maryom

Ari Thor Arason is expecting his first posting as a police officer to be a quiet one. In the far north of Iceland, Siglufjordur is an isolated place where folk still leave their doors unlocked and nothing exciting ever happens. Well, that is until now.....
As winter settles over the town, with snow piling up to the windows and avalanches blocking the only road out, the local amateur dramatic society are preparing for opening night when tragedy strikes. Their chairman, elderly renowned novelist Hrolfur, is found dead at the bottom of a flight of stairs in the theatre. He could merely have been drunk and slipped, but Ari Thor isn't convinced. Then the girlfriend of one of the actors is found lying in the snow outside her house, half-naked, stabbed and unconscious. As Ari Thor digs deeper into the lives of this quiet, respectable-seeming community, he realises appearances can be deceptive ....and that he doesn't know who he can trust.
 Siglufjordur is a thriller writer's dream location - a tight-knit community, encircled by mountains, almost round-the-clock darkness in midwinter, cut off from the rest of the country by the harsh weather; it all adds to the brooding menace of having a killer at large! Ari Thor, as a new-comer to the area, and encountering it first at its darkest, feels overpowered by it all. He's disoriented too at a personal level; his girlfriend Kristin refused to leave Reykjavik and accompany him North, but in Siglufjordur he meets and finds himself attracted to, Ugla, a young woman, not long living in the area and, like him, still somewhat friendless there.
The story alternates between events unfolding 'now' and a burglary occurring at some unspecified point of time, and it's only at the end that the two threads connect but bear with it, because they DO join up. I wonder if the ending may have some readers feeling unsettled. It certainly isn't a totally cut and dried finish but feels more realistic for it.
Snowblind is the first of a series, so maybe a certain level of background set up was necessary but I felt there was just a little too much lead-in - showing how not just Ari Thor but others too had ended up living in this remote place - before I actually reached the murder. By the end, though, the characters had developed into people whose lives I wanted to know more about now I'm anxiously waiting for Book 2!

translated from Icelandic by Quentin Bates
 Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Orenda Books

Genre - Adult,crime, nordic noir,

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