Title: Snowblind by Ragnar Jónasson
Translated by Quentin Bates
Dark Iceland Series Book One
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
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 theater, 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.
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.
Taut and terrifying, Snowblind is a startling debut from the extraordinary new talent Ragnar Jonasson.
Snowblind by Ragnar Jónasson is an atmospheric police procedural set in an isolated small town in Iceland. This first installment in the Dark Iceland series is a bit of a slow burner, but the characters and the setting make it very easy to savor the unfolding story.
A former philosophy and theology student, twenty-four year old Ari Thór Arason has finally found his niche at the police college in Reykjavík. However, finding employment proves elusive until he is offered a position in Siglufjörður. After impulsively accepting the job without discussing it first with his longtime girlfriend Kristín who refuses to move with him, Ari Thór sets off for his new home. With the winter darkness, seemingly unending snow and the isolation quickly becoming claustrophobic for Ari Thór, the sleepy village is soon shocked when beloved author Hrólfur Kristjánsson is found dead at the bottom of a staircase at the local theater. While everyone else is convinced Hrólfur’s fall is a tragic accident, Ari Thór wonders if the death might be the result of foul play. When Linda Christensen is discovered stabbed and lying in the snow, Ari Thór cannot help but speculate the two incidents might be connected, but how?
Ari Thór is an interesting young man with a rather complicated past that continues to trouble him. Moving to the close-knit community of Siglufjörður might prove to be a smart career move in the long run, but in the present, his decision has a detrimental effect on both his relationship and his mental health. Depressed by Kristín’s less than enthusiastic reaction and feeling claustrophobic by the isolation, darkness and unrelenting snowfall, Ari Thór is already second-guessing accepting the job when Hrólfur’s body is discovered.
Enthusiastic about his first “real” case, Ari Thór views the death as suspicious but police chief Tómas is ready to label it as an accident after a cursory investigation. While he respects his boss’s opinion, Ari Thór cannot help probing a little deeper into the circumstances surrounding Hrólfur’s fall. However, in a town as small as Siglufjörður, it does not take long for rumors to begin circulating that Hrólfur might have been murdered and Tómas is none too pleased that Ari Thór is asking questions without permission. Tómas is equally vexed when someone begins leaking details of the case to a newspaper reporter. After Linda’s body is found, Tómas, Ari Thór and veteran investigator Hlynur are definitely under pressure to find answers. Ari Thór might not be an experienced policeman, but he has good instincts that help him piece together the various clues.
While initially a little slow paced, Snowblind is a compelling mystery with a cast of intriguing characters. The isolation, unrelenting snow and dark winter days underscore Ari Thór’s deepening depression and feelings of oppression. The leisurely unveiling of the two cases provides plenty of time for Ragnar Jónasson to fully flesh out the various characters which allows readers to become fully acquainted with them on a much more personal level. An outstanding beginning to the Dark Iceland series that will leave fans of the genre impatiently awaiting the next release.