Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson – Review

Orenda Books

Publication date – 15 June 2015

Source – Publisher

Translated by Quentin Bates


Siglufjörður: an idyllically quiet fishing village in Northern Iceland, where no one locks their doors – accessible only via a small mountain tunnel. Ari Thór Arason: a rookie policeman on his first posting, far from his girlfriend in Reykjavik – with a past that he’s unable to leave behind. When a young woman is found lying half-naked in the snow, bleeding and unconscious, and a highly esteemed, elderly writer falls to his death in the local theatre, Ari is dragged straight into the heart of a community where he can trust no one, and secrets and lies are a way of life. An avalanche and unremitting snowstorms close the mountain pass, and the 24-hour darkness threatens to push Ari over the edge, as curtains begin to twitch, and his investigation becomes increasingly complex, chilling and personal. Past plays tag with the present and the claustrophobic tension mounts, while Ari is thrust ever deeper into his own darkness – blinded by snow, and with a killer on the loose. Taut and terrifying, Snowblind is a startling debut from an extraordinary new talent, taking Nordic Noir to soaring new heights.”

4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via my blogging friend Liz Barnsley at Lizlovesbooks and this is my honest opinion of the book.

Ari Thor, about to graduate from the police academy, accepts a job from the chief of police in Siglufjörður. Leaving behind his disgruntled girlfriend, he finds himself in a place surrounded by mountains and edged by the sea. The only exit, a narrow mountain tunnel. He finds it hard to settle, being told that nothing ever happens; everyone knows each other and doors are kept unlocked. The only thing to sort out are the occasional speeding tickets or the odd drunk. So when an elderly local celebrity is found dead after a fall in the local theatre Ari Thor is soon told that this is nothing more than accident. Doubt nags at Ari Thor and when a young woman is found bleeding in the snow things it soon becomes clear, things aren’t all as they seem.

I don’t want to go into too much detail as to the mystery side of the story. To do so would spoil the enjoyment of finding out for yourself and runs the risk of me giving too much away.

The chapters alternate between characters which enables the story to be about more than just Ari Thor. The fact that the story is not told solely from his viewpoint works well. The reader is invited into the lives of the residents in a way that Ari Thor, an outsider, is not. This gives even more of a sense of danger and menace to the story but also a different dynamic.

There is something almost hauntingly melancholic about this story. The claustrophobia felt by Ari Thor is palpable. You can almost feel the walls of snow caging you in and the sense of almost perpetual winter darkness makes you reach for the light switch. There is also an air of menace which is juxtaposes the almost ‘cosy’ feel to the mystery. The tale is set in a small town, where doors are kept unlocked and everyone knows everyone else. Yet secrets lurk behind those unlocked doors and outsiders like Ari Thor sense what is almost hidden from view.

The imagery used in the book is immediate. Though I read this in June I found myself shivering and the descriptions of the unremitting darkness of the 24 hour ‘nights’ are superbly effective, making me forget that around me the days were the longest they are all year.

Quentin Bates’ translation is outstanding. Again I forgot I was reading a piece of translated fiction and I’ve said before that I believe the sign of a great translator is that you cannot tell the work you are reading is translated. Nothing felt jarred or out of place. The sense of tension, danger and oppression flowed throughout.

I was easily transported to Iceland and the book left me a longing to return. There is a desolate beauty to the country which is echoed in Snowblind.  I eagerly await Ragnar Jonasson’s next book, Nightblind, out later this year.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. oh I just love Icelandic fiction – this one sounds fantastic!


    1. janetemson says:

      It is good. Reminded me of my love of the country. Hope you enjoy it if you read it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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