Saturday, July 17, 2021

Snowblind - Ragnar Jónasson


Snowblind
(2010) marks the beginning of Ragnar Jónasson’s earliest crime fiction series, a series that has come to be called the author’s “Dark Iceland” books. There are now five other books in the Dark Iceland series, including 2020’s Winterkill. From what I understand, the order of the books as they were internationally published differs from the order in which they were originally published in Iceland, so it’s not clear to me how closely one plot from the series chronologically follows its Icelandic predecessor. 


Snowblind appears to be Jónasson’s debut novel, as I don’t find anything of his having been published in Iceland prior to this one’s 2009 publication in that country. The novel, while certainly not my favorite of the Jónasson novels I’ve read to this point, shares many of the characteristics that readers love most about the author’s work: a strong sense of place, well-developed characters, attention to police procedural details, and crimes (usually murders) perpetrated by truly warped criminal minds. 


Ari Thór Arason is a rookie policeman who eagerly moves to Siglufjöròur, a little town in far north Iceland, to begin his first job. He accepts the job offer over the telephone, however, and his enthusiasm about working in such an isolated town is hard to maintain after he realizes exactly what he has gotten himself into. He is the outsider; everyone knows who he is, but he knows no one. Even worse for him as a policeman, he knows nothing about anyone’s past relationships or the social history of his community. That is a huge disadvantage when investigating a crime in a community as small as the one he’s now committed himself to working and living in for the next two years. 


But as his new boss tells him, nothing much ever happens in Siglufjöròur anyway. And that’s true…right up until the moment that two dead bodies are discovered, one of them more obviously the body of a murder victim than the other. 


The most prominent of the two victims is an elderly man who appears to have fallen to his death down a flight of theater stairs while there alone. The man is internationally famous because of a book he wrote decades earlier, and his death, especially a suspicious one, still has the potential to draw the world’s interest. The other body belonged to a near-naked young woman who is discovered lying in the snow in almost a “snow angel” position by a young neighbor of hers. 


At first, Thór is the only one who suspects foul play. Others in town, including Thór’s own boss are more than willing to believe that the old man’s death had been an accident and the young woman’s a suicide. Despite his ignorance of local politics and relationships, Thór begins to take “crime scene” pictures and ask uncomfortable questions. And when someone breaks into his home in the middle of the night, he realizes that he might just be on to something. Now he only needs to get someone else to take him seriously.


Bottom Line: While the mystery in Snowblind is rather run-of-the-mill and holds few real surprises, this is a novel that has such intriguing characters and such an interesting setting that I enjoyed reading it. I look forward to reading the rest of the series. 


Ragnar Jónasson


4 comments:

  1. Mysteries set in Iceland always intrigue me...it's that remote setting, I guess. I have this one on my TBR list, too. I'm thinking of dipping into Jonasson's books this fall. Fingers crossed. :)

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    1. I've read five of them in the last few weeks, so I'm probably done with them for the rest of 2021...have to save something of his for 2022!

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  2. I posted my review of the first in his Hulda series on Friday. Now it looks like I might have to add this series, too, to my reading list.

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    1. I'm tickled that you enjoyed the Hulda book so much, Dorothy. It may well end up being my favorite read of the year unless I'm surprised to that degree again during the second half of the year.

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