Snow Blind by Ragnar Jónasson
I have been hearing for some time that I need to give Icelandic and Scandinavian fiction a try, so I finally took the plunge and read Snow Blind, Book 1 in Ragnar Jónasson’s Dark Iceland series.
Let me paraphrase what’s coming for the #TLDR (Too Long, Didn’t Read) folks here: I will be reading more Icelandic and Scandinavian fiction, beginning with book 2 in the Dark Iceland series, Night Blind.
Snow Blind is the story of Ari Thór, a theology-student-turned-police-officer who moves from Reykjavik (starting here, I’m not putting the accents over the words because WordPress isn’t allowing it and I. Just. Can’t.) to Siglufjordur, a small town in the remote north of Iceland where the winters are long and dark and the residents seem to know everything about everyone.
Note my use of the word “seem.” Because when a well-known elderly writer in town dies under suspicious circumstances and his death is closely followed by another bizarre and violent occurrence, the residents are suddenly afraid and it quickly becomes clear they don’t know everything about everyone.
As the newcomer to a town where families go back generations and new faces are greeted with guarded suspicion, Ari Thor has his work cut out for him. He’s the rookie cop on the town’s very small police force and he needs to prove to his boss and the residents of Siglufjordur that he is smart and capable. It isn’t easy—he suffers from claustrophobia and now he’s stuck in a town where winter consists of constant darkness and tons and tons (and tons, and tons…) of snow with only one very treacherous road in or out. He’s left behind a serious girlfriend in Reykjavik and she’s unhappy with his decision to take the job. His new boss shifts on a dime from being fatherlike and kind to gruff and angry when Ari Thor suggests the old writer’s death wasn’t an accident.
This book says “Thriller” right on the cover, but I wouldn’t call it a thriller. I would call it a suspense novel. Here’s why: the reader knows certain things that Ari Thor doesn’t know; the story starts with a crime and circles back to it toward the end of the book; and the killer isn’t known until the final reveal near the conclusion of the story.
But with that being said, it’s a thrilling book. Ari Thor puts himself in harm’s way more than once to prove that he’s the right man for the job, and there are times when he’s in danger and the reader wonders how he’s going to fare. There are red herrings aplenty (pun intended—herring? Iceland? Get it?), and I was kept just off-balance enough to keep reading until way past my bedtime because I needed to know whodunit.
The characters in the book are complex and three-dimensional and the plot moves at a nice clip. I am already looking forward to book 2 in the series and I’ll be checking out other Icelandic and Scandinavian authors, too.
I would highly recommend Snow Blind to anyone who loves dark fiction and a clever mystery set in a desolate but beautiful place with plenty of atmosphere and tension.