In addition to all the other factors that make a book enjoyable—effective pacing, interesting character development, solid plotting—mysteries demand that writers carefully dole out information as needed for the reader to either solve the puzzle at the right time or trick the reader in a series of plot twists. Neither of those things happen in Ragnar Jónasson’s Snowblind, unfortunately. I don’t fault the translator, Quentin Bates, for the flaws in this novel. All the problems are structural. In fact, this book has so many fundamental issues that I wonder it’s garnered praise from the people who supplied the blurbs.
Snowblind is set in a remote town in northern Iceland. Siglufjörður is so far off the beaten track that it often becomes inaccessible in winter. The town is tight knit, the kind of place where everyone knows about everyone’s history and business. It would have been a tough nut to crack for any incoming policeman, let alone a rookie like Ari Thór Arason. He only take the job because the head police officer in Siglufjörður made him an offer and Ari Thór is used to being picked last, if at all. His first few days in the town lull him into thinking that Siglufjörður really is as boring as advertised. Then a famous writer is found dead in the local theater and a woman is discovered nearly dead in her own snowy backyard.
Snowblind should have been a tense, short mystery/thriller. It would have been if an editor had sat down with Jónasson and talked him out of the out-of-place victim’s perspectives, extensive histories of characters who turned out not to be involved in the crime, and the detective’s mooning over his distant girlfriend and the nearby woman he’s attracted to. (The editor should also have fixed the continuity errors while they were at it.) Of course, if you’d cut all that out, there wouldn’t be much book left.
I picked up Snowblind for two reasons. First, Iceland fascinates me. I very much want to visit some day and I love the fact that there are still people in the world speaking a Viking language. Second, I really enjoyed the Inspecter Erlender series by Arnaldur Indriðason. I was hoping to find something that could help fill the void. Although I enjoyed the descriptions of Siglufjörður, this book was uniformly awful.
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley for review consideration. It will be released 31 January 2017.