Sunday, September 22, 2019

Snowblind: Ragnar Jonasson

Snowblind is the first book in the Dark Iceland series, written by Ragnar Jónasson. The setting is the northernmost town in Iceland, Siglufjörður, close to the Arctic Circle. I have read other mysteries set in Iceland but those have been set in or around Reykavik, and I like this different setting. The town is small and can only be accessed via a tunnel, thus it is often isolated when the weather is bad.

This is the summary on the back of my edition:
Where: An isolated fishing village in the fjords of northern Iceland, where no one locks their doors.
Who: Ari Thór is a rookie policeman on his first posting, far from his girlfriend in Reykjavik.
What: A young woman is found lying half naked in the snow, bleeding and unconscious, and a highly esteemed, elderly writer falls to his death. 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.

As the novel opens, Ari Thór Arason is attending police college and lives with his girlfriend, Kristin, who is studying to be a doctor. He soon gets a call offering him a job in Siglufjörður, and he decides to take it without consulting Kristin. She is upset with him, and he leaves for his new job with a good bit of resentment between the two of them.

When Ari Thór arrives at his new job, he is disappointed to find the that the town is so quiet and crime free. As his new boss, Tomas, says, "nothing ever happens here." Ari Thór feels claustrophobic and threatened in his new environment and he is very much an outsider there.

Even when a well-known, elderly author dies by falling down the stairs at the local theater, and Ari Thór suspects that it may not be an accident, Tómas downplays the incident and doesn't want to stir up any trouble.

Then a young woman is found lying in the snow near to her home, bleeding and near death. Her husband is immediately suspected, but the police have to look into other possibilities, and as the investigation continues, many secrets are exposed.

My first reaction to the story was that the police were much less focused on the solution to the crime than I would expect, possibly due to not having had to deal with such a serious crime in the past. I also noticed that many of the characters were troubled about tragic events in their past. Ari Thor had lost both parents at a young age and felt that there is little justice in life. Several other characters had lost one of their parents at a young age or someone similarly close and had suffered trauma from those losses. This type of loss is not unusual, it just seemed very prominent in this small set of characters.

But as I got involved in the story, I found it to be a rewarding read. Many of the characters are experiencing change in their lives and adjusting. The crime highlights those situations. And the way the investigation plays out is realistic.

I also liked the way the story goes back and forth in time, letting the reader know that a serious crime has occurred, and going back in time to reveal more about the characters and explore events leading up to the crime. I thought that was handled very cleverly. I mention it specifically because some readers don't care for that style.

My only problem with this series is that it was published out of order in the US. Per the author's website:
Original publication order of the series in Iceland:
Fölsk nóta (2009)*
Snjóblinda (Snowblind) - 2010
Myrknætti (Blackout) - 2011
Rof (Rupture) - 2012
Andköf (Whiteout) - 2013
Náttblinda (Nightblind) - 2014
* Not set in Siglufjordur, but the first novel featuring Ari Thór Arason, as a young theology student looking for his missing father.

Some other reviews to check out...


Publisher:   Minotaur Books, 2017 (orig. pub. 2010)
Length:      302 pages
Format:      Trade Paperback
Series:       Dark Iceland Series #1
Setting:      Iceland
Genre:       Police procedural
Source:     I purchased this book.


Kay said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this one, Tracy. I think I have this book around here to read at some point. I keep thinking I'll pick it up. Need to make a point of that because I think I'll like it and the series itself.

Margot Kinberg said...

It's good to hear that you liked this, Tracy. And I agree that the small-town, isolated setting adds to the atmosphere. As I read your post, I was thinking about the delicate balance between characters with rich, interesting backgrounds, and at the same time not giving them too much 'baggage.' It's not always easy to achieve that.

Rick Robinson said...

I'm not a fan of the Scandinavian, Greenland, Iceland mysteries. I know that's lumping a lot together, the two or three I've tried have all been Did Not Finish, depressing books. So I just don't go there any more.

Katrina said...

I haven't read any by this author but I really want to be in the Icelandic setting so I've just reserved it at the library, I'm quite surprised they have it.

Anonymous said...

I have this book already. Glad to hear you enjoyed it. --Keishon

TracyK said...

I think you would like it, Kay. I like police procedurals and this one had some variety in its approach.

TracyK said...

The setting was interesting and very well done, Margot. It is nice to read a book set in another country and actually get a feel for what it is like.

TracyK said...

I sympathize, Rick. I have also found that Scandinavian novels generally are somewhat depressing. I find the Detective Irene Huss series by Helene Tursten set in Sweden not to be that way, but it is an exception.

TracyK said...

I would love to visit Iceland, Katrina, but I don't like to travel, so this is the next best thing.

TracyK said...

I did like it, Keishon. I am interested in how the main characters change and develop in future books.

col2910 said...

Tracy, it's on the pile for a rainy day!

TracyK said...

I hope you enjoy it when you get to it, Col. I do like reading books set in Iceland.

Mathew Paust said...

I read two of Arnaldur Indridason's crime novels, Tracy, and I suspect he was recommended by you! I liked them a lot. This one sounds similar, at least with the lone investigator and the lonely, unfriendly atmosphere. You were right the last time, so I have no choice but to give Jonasson a try.

TracyK said...

It has been a while since I read one of Indridason's books, Mathew, so I may be misremembering, but I think his novel was more complex than Snowblind, and I think I like this one more. But both were good, although both were kind of dry and depressing. I do want to read more by Indridason.