#AW80Books: Ragnar Jonasson’s ‘Snow Blind’ – Why this Mum’s gone to Iceland
Spring has finally sprung! The snowdrops, daffodils, crocuses and primroses are out in abundance, the howling wind has given way to birdsong and every store across the land has dusted down their perennial stocks of gardening paraphernalia to flog to the enthusiastic and the green-fingered. After a frustratingly mild winter, I’d been reluctant to put away the unused snow shovel, and I felt I needed to experience at least some icy weather before I could fully embrace the coming of spring. After reading Madame Bibi Lophile‘s post earlier in the year on getting your snow fix from a literary source, I decided to do just that and headed off on my armchair travels to Iceland in the company of Ragnar Jónasson’s Snow Blind.
To the consternation of his girlfriend, newly trained police officer Ari Thór Arason leaves Reykjavik and accepts his first posting in Siglufjörður, a remote fishing village in the north of Iceland. It is not long before he finds the tight-knit community suffocating and questions his decision to relocate to such an isolated and lonely spot. As the dark blanket of winter closes in bringing extreme weather and a heightened sense of claustrophobia, the discovery of a woman’s body left unconscious and bleeding in the snow, and the death of a renowned writer cause shock, fear and suspicion to grip the local inhabitants.
I really enjoyed the novel. It was tense, gripping, and I couldn’t put it down. Unlike many crime thrillers it glossed over the more gory details in favour of a sparse but satisfying structure and dazzling writing. Maybe it was this lack of the grittier side of crime fiction in favour of the classic ‘whodunnit’ that reminded me of a golden age detective novel. When I’d finished it, gasped and looked back over it, the clues were all there, but well-buried in the text. I had various theories as the novel progressed but it really stumped me and the ending was a surprise and tied up all the loose ends successfully. Also, if I’d set out to get my fill of wintery weather fro the novel, I couldn’t have asked for more. Jónasson captures the extremes of an Icelandic winter vividly. The landscape, the relentless darkness and perilous conditions really ramped up the sense of bleak isolation. It was just what I needed. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I ordered the follow up Night Blind straight away. (Night Blind is actually the fifth book in the Dark Iceland series, but the second to be translated into English by Quentin Bates and published by Orenda books.)
I love it when books contain maps, and Snow Blind had both a map of the lay out of Siglufjörður and one of its location in northern Iceland. Better than that, fans of the brilliant tv series Trapped, recently aired on BBC4, will be interested to know that while the series is set in Seyðisfjörður, a village in eastern Iceland, it was actually filmed in Siglufjörður. I confused and irritated my husband no end, by pausing and replaying bits while we watched the series, as well as dropping in details about characters from the book.
If you like your detective fiction old school, or you’re having withdrawal symptoms from Andri and Hinrika in Trapped, I highly recommend Snow Blind. I’ll be posting up my review of Night Blind soon, and I sincerely hope that it’s only a matter of time before Orenda books let us enjoy the rest of Jónasson’s Dark Iceland series in translation.
Fancy joining in the Around the World in 80 Books reading challenge? You can read all about it here. If you fancy a nose at the places Lucy and I have traveled to and plan to visit next, you’ll find that here.