Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson, translated by Quentin Bates
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.
Imagine a small place, one in which everyone knows who you are and everyone knows your business; a place where you are still an incomer after you have lived there more than 25 years. A place where nothing ever happens.
A place surrounded by snow and ice, often cut off from the nearest town in Winter leaving the residents snowbound and in the dark. This place is Siglufjordur in Iceland, the northernmost town in the country, only accessible via mountain tunnels.
Into this place, comes newly qualified policeman Ari Thor. Not yet emotionally mature, perhaps because of the loss of his parents in his childhood, he has taken this posting because it was offered, and without talking to his girlfriend, a medic. She is, it is fair to say, not best pleased and their relationship is strained.
So when a young woman is found lying in the snow and foul play is suspected, everyone takes an interest.
This is the setting for the first of Ragnar Jonasson’s Dark Iceland series. It is most notable for the clarity of its prose and the beauty of the writing – ably complemented by Quentin Bates’ translation.
Richly atmospheric, this is a novel that truly makes you feel the claustrophobia in Siglufjordur. A well thought through plot, good characterisation and exquisite use of language make this a thoroughly good read.
I like Ari Thor’s characterisation. He can, in some circumstances, be a bit too easily swayed and I enjoy that he is both complex and imperfect – in his home life and at work.It is clear that there is more to this character than we are told, and I look forward to learning more about him and especially his past.
Snow Blind was a joy to read and takes crime writing to the level of art.
If this is Icelandic Noir, then give me more!
Snow Blind is published by the lovely Orenda Books