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2017 is barely underway, and we in the United States are already blessed with a new entry (to us) in the Nordic noir genre. That would be SNOWBLIND, which, way back in 2010, was the debut novel of Ragnar Jónasson. It has since developed that this was the first of what has come to be known as the Dark Iceland series. That is a good thing, because the book leaves you wishing for and wanting more of its quirky, memorable characters and haunting backdrop.

SNOWBLIND introduces Ari Thor Arason, who is a newly minted Reykjavik police academy graduate. Given the poor economic conditions in the country, Ari Thor’s prospects for employment are bleak. So when he unexpectedly receives the offer of a position with the police department in remote Siglufjörður, a small fishing town on the northern coast of Iceland, he jumps at the chance. This wins him little favor with his girlfriend, who is a medical student in Reykjavik and was not given the opportunity to provide input into the decision-making process. Siglufjörður relies primarily on tourism for its economy, but it’s difficult to reach and at times all but inaccessible due to heavy snowfalls.

"Jónasson leaves a couple of minor but intriguing plot threads hanging at the conclusion that beg for revelation."

Needless to say, Ari Thor’s new home and duty station is not exactly Reykjavik, and he begins to regret his new posting almost as soon as he arrives. The weather is by turns beautiful and bitter. He is definitely an outsider in a town where everyone knows everyone else. Worst of all, the job is boring. There is very little crime, as one would define it. No one locks their doors or acts up much, and his duties seem confined to warning the occasional motorist about speeding, or perhaps dealing with the occasional drunk.

Things change for the worse, though, after Ari Thor arrives. The first indication that all is not well manifests itself when a well-known and elderly local author and patron of the arts falls to his death down a stairway in the town theater on the eve of a presentation of a new play he is helping to direct. Ari Thor is eager to investigate, but his superior officer, who doesn’t like to make waves, is quick to rule the matter an accident. When a local woman is found stabbed and bleeding out in her garden, it appears that the little town has a murderer on the loose and the two occurrences may be connected.

Ari Thor, it develops, has quite a talent for police work, possessing a skill set that includes very sharp observation and memory skills. By the time SNOWBLIND concludes, he has not only solved two mysteries, but also discovered and resurrected a couple of other crimes. If only his personal life was as successful as his professional.

Jónasson is no stranger to mystery literature. He has previously translated several Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic. Indeed, SNOWBLIND puts one vaguely in the mind of a Christie story, as well as Fargo --- both the film and television series --- due to its isolated setting and occasionally offbeat characters. The English language version of the book is also noteworthy for having been translated by Quentin Bates, whose own Icelandic crime series is highly regarded. Here’s hoping that subsequent volumes of the Dark Iceland series are published in the United States in due course. Jónasson leaves a couple of minor but intriguing plot threads hanging at the conclusion that beg for revelation.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on February 3, 2017

by Ragnar Jonasson

  • Publication Date: November 7, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: A Thomas Dunne Book for St. Martin's Griffin
  • ISBN-10: 125014468X
  • ISBN-13: 9781250144683