Ragnar Jonasson – Snowblind

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Snowblind is the first book in the Dark Iceland series, a series of books that have already been optioned for television. This is Ragnar Jonasson’s debut and it sets out the stall for what should surely be a compelling series.

It starts with the vivid image of a blood in the snow in a very tense place, a place where people prefer to stay in and look out at the white outdoors rather than going out to play. Later, a child leaves a woman lying out in the snow, not wanting to disturb the snow angel. Our leader character Ari Thor sees the scene as almost artistic before snapping back to the reality of what is happening.

Ari Thor is a man who has been unable to finish things, including a Theology and Philosophy course, and he has enrolled in police college and bulked up. He hadn’t been doing Theology because of any major faith, but rather hoped it’d instil something in him. He likes the buzz of police work, poring over books is not really for him.

His girlfriend Kristin flies through her exams and there’s some tension as he can’t understand why she can’t be happy about the new job he’s got. He’s been passed over for previous jobs and he’s not going to be deterred from this one. After he arrives he’s unsure if he’s made the right decision moving to a tight knit community. He’s told people don’t lock their doors, that nothing ever happens here and he wonders what he’s got himself into.

The landscape plays a big part in Snowblind, it adds to his feeling of claustrophobia and really ramps up the sense of dread that I felt while reading it. There’s a sense of an outsider trying to get to grips with the everyday interactions of the people and trying to make sense of what is happening. All of this while feeling shut off from the rest of the world as the climate can be so overwhelming.

Ari has been affected by loneliness all his life and the situation he finds himself in in this small village certainly increases this. He lost his parents when he was young and many of the characters in the book appear haunted by the loss of close family members.

One of the main events in the book is the death of Iceland’s foremost author. It’s believed to have been an accident by some but Ari is keen to get to the bottom of it, delving deep into the politics of the Dramatic Society and beyond to establish the background. While he’s doing this he also has friendly dealings with a woman called Ulga, something that leads him to question his relationship with Kristin. He’s very much immersed in a whole other world now.

Snowblind is a delight to read. I was involved in the world of Ari from the start and Jonasson craftily puts together a bleak feeling of claustrophobia that draws us into this inner world. I’m very much looking forward to reading Nightblind, the second book in the Dark Iceland series, very soon indeed.

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