Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson, translated by Quentin Bates

    Snowblind is the first in Ragnar Jonasson's Dark Iceland series. I always enjoy a classic detective story and this has all the elements I look for: a story which is character driven, an interesting cast, a setting which is full of atmosphere, all wrapped up in skillful prose. I am pleased to say that Snowblind ticks all these boxes. I am a bit late to this party as there have been two further stories published in the Dark Iceland series so I can't wait to explore those. 
    The story is set in the remote north of Iceland in Siglufjörður, a quiet fishing village. No one locks their doors there and it is reached by a tunnel through the mountains. Ari Thór Arason is a new policeman who goes there for his first posting. As the winter descends and the snow envelops the place, mysterious deaths occur. It becomes obvious that some people living there have secrets to hide. Ari is the outsider who is new to his job and the town.
    
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   Cleverly plotted, the story is driven by the range of characters we meet. Most have their own backstory. In particular, you come to know Ari as he struggles with the isolation of the place. Not knowing who he can trust, he feels the claustrophobic atmosphere of the town. His loneliness and inability to communicate with his girlfriend back in Reykjavik, means he is cut off physically and mentally. As the darkness of winter descends and an avalanche cuts off the town, he questions where others would prefer not to. The irony is that as the new rookie policeman, his suspicions are somewhat disregarded, at first. 

     Of course, the landscape and the weather dominate the book and are intrinsic to creating the tense, isolated setting. This is a community which is suspicious of strangers yet does not lock its doors. It is the sort of place where you can live there for years and not be accepted: a comer- in. You just know that behind closed doors, there are secrets to uncover. The plot develops gradually, coming to a slow boil as the tension is ratcheted up. I didn't guess the twist and there are plenty of red herrings to keep you occupied throughout. Superb characterisation, a setting which adds to the story and a cracking good plot. What more can you want? Maybe a follow up.

In short: a dark, tense whodunnit with a depth of characterisation and complex plot - brilliant.

 

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