Friday, 19 May 2017

Book Review - Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson

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. Taut and terrifying, Snowblind is a startling debut from an extraordinary new talent, taking Nordic Noir to soaring new heights.

Snowblind is the first book in Ragnar Jonasson's Dark Iceland series centred on Ari Thór Arason. In this novel he is a rookie officer who, when he accepts a job offer, must move away from Reykjavik and his girlfriend, and adapt to life in Siglufjörður, a quiet fishing village in the far north of the country. He learns from Tómas, the police sergeant in charge of Siglufjörður police station, that nobody ever locks their doors because there's no point as nothing ever happens. Ari Thór's sense of isolation at this news is immediately palpable, he's in a strange town, one that views outsiders with suspicion and he somehow has to learn to work within this tight-knit community but if nothing happens how can he ever hope to be accepted?
However, the sudden death of celebrated local author, Hrólfur Kristjánsson, immediately plunges him into a case and he finds himself caught up in the secrets and lies of this little community. At first it is widely believed that Hrólfur's death may have been a tragic accident but Ari Thór suspects this may not be the truth, leading him to become further isolated from the locals who object to his questions about their relationships with one another. When a young woman is then found brutally attacked and left for  dead, half-naked in the snow, it appears they may really have a killer in their midst. With the only road out of the town blocked following an avalanche, tensions rise as Ari Thór battles to control his growing claustrophobia as he strives to find the killer when he doesn't know who he can trust.
 We slowly learn more about the community as Ragnar Jonasson cleverly switches the perspective numerous times meaning we discover little snippets about the various characters from their own thoughts and actions. There is a risk with multiple points of view that the narrative becomes confused but that never happens here, instead this gradual drip-feeding of hidden truths helps to build the tension and increased my desire to turn the pages to discover more. Ari Thór is an engaging protagonist, instinctive and impulsive; the twists and turns kept me captivated and the descriptions of the landscape and weather in Iceland are beautifully and atmospherically described.
I found Snowblind an unsettling read, perhaps because I suffer mildly from claustrophobia myself, the overwhelming sense of being trapped in this dark little town was palpable. I became so immersed in this world, in which the landscape was as much as character as the people of Siglufjörður, that I physically felt the tension, my chest became tight and I could sense the unease in the pit of my stomach. This of course, is in a strange way, exactly what I loved about Snowblind, to experience that deep connection with Ari Thór meant once I picked the book up I didn't put it down until I'd read the whole thing. To say a book made me feel anxious may seem an odd way to recommend it but I mean it as the highest compliment, to write a novel I felt as well as read is something very special and I thoroughly recommend Snowblind to anybody who enjoys gripping, atmospheric thrillers. I've already started reading the second book in the series, Nightblind!

Snowblind is published in the UK by Orenda Books. You can follow Ragnar Jonasson on Twitter as @ragnarjo and Orenda as @OrendaBooks

About the Author

Ragnar Jónasson is author of the international bestselling Dark Iceland series. His debut Snowblind went to number one in the kindle charts shortly after publication, and Nightblind, Blackout and Rupture soon followed suit, hitting the number one spot in five countries, and the series being sold in 15 countries and for TV. Ragnar was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, where he continues to work as 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 set up its first overseas chapter in Reykjavik. He is also the co-founder of the international crime-writing festival Iceland Noir. From the age of 17, Ragnar translated 14 Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic. He has appeared on festival panels worldwide, and lives in Reykjavik with his wife and young daughters.

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