Snowblind – Ragnar Jonasson

In Snowblind, the first novel in Ragnar Jónasson’s Dark Iceland series, rookie policeman Ari Thor Arason accepts a posting in snowy Northern Iceland. Siglufjörõur – a remote fishing village where no one ever locks their doors – feels like a good place to Ari to establish experience with promise of little in the way of action.

Not long after his arrival, the town’s most famous resident, a highly esteemed writer, is found dead at the foot of a set of stairs. Though he’s eager to write it off as an accident, a woman is found clinging to life, this time the victim of a knife wound. Are these two instances related? Can Ari uncover the culprit (or culprits) and bring order to the once calm community?

As we rolled into January and the nights are bitterly cold, long, and dark, I wanted something to read that matched the atmosphere. While I had planned to re-read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Jónasson’s Dark Iceland series has been on my radar for a while now. What better time than now to explore the Northern tip of Iceland, a country that sees months of perpetual darkness this time of year.

Having spent his time translating Agatha Christie’s novels into Icelandic, author Ragnar Jónasson has some experience with the craft of a locked-room mystery. But why lock a room when you can lock an entire town? With an avalanche closing off the only road in and out of Siglufjörõur, the suspect list remains low in this sparsely populated village. Trust is generally thrown out the window when people begin to fear for their lives and the author does an excellent job establishing potential motives in the face of a population who would rather not imagine such unpleasantness visiting their sleepy little community.

There’s something about a dogged detective determined to uncover the secrets of a small town that really gets my motor running. Set it in the dead of winter, and you’ve got a few points before I crack the cover. While Ari Thor is no Philip Marlowe or Mikael Blomkvist, he’s still young (age 24 in the debut novel) so there is lots of time to grow hardened and cynical yet. He’s a good unbiased detective who still makes mistakes, but I believe will find his footing. They all can’t be as blatantly confident and arrogant as Hercule Poirot right out of the gate.

If you find yourself sheltering from a blizzard, curled up in your favorite chair with a cup of tea, I absolutely recommend Snowblind. A solid whodunnit that perfect fits those cold winter nights.

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