Authors: Ragnar Jonasson
Tags: #Detective and Mystery Fiction
PRAISE FOR SNOWBLIND
‘Ragnar Jónasson writes with a chilling, poetic beauty – a must-read addition to the growing canon of Iceland Noir’ Peter James
‘Seductive … an old-fashioned murder mystery with a strong central character and the fascinating background of a small Icelandic town cut off by snow. Ragnar does claustrophobia beautifully’ Ann Cleeves
is as dazzling a novel as its title implies, and the wonderful Ari Thór is a welcome addition to the pantheon of Scandinavian detectives. I can’t wait until the sequel!’ William Ryan
‘A truly chilling debut, perfect for fans of Karin Fossum and Henning Mankell’ Eva Dolan
‘An isolated community, subtle clueing, clever mis-direction and more than a few surprises combine to give a modern-day, golden-age whodunnit. Well Done! I look forward to the next in the series’ John Curran
brings you the chill of a snowbound Icelandic fishing village cut off from the outside world, and the warmth of a really well-crafted and translated murder mystery’ Michael Ridpath
‘The complex characters and absorbing plot make
memorable. Its setting – Siglufjörður, a small fishing village isolated in the depths of an Icelandic winter – makes it unforgettable. Let’s hope that more of this Icelandic author’s work will be translated’ Sandra Balzo
‘In Ari Thór Arason, Nordic Noir has a new hero as compelling and interesting as the Northern Icelandic setting’ Nick Quantrill
‘This has all the ingredients – a young policeman, a girlfriend left behind, murders both old and new for solving, together with the intertwining of relationships within a small community as it goes through a snowbound dark winter. An absorbing read and one I didn’t put down.’
‘If a golden-age crime novel was to emerge from a literary deep freeze then you’d hope it would read like this. Jónasson cleverly squeezes this small, isolated town in northern Iceland until it is hard to breathe, ensuring the setting is as claustrophobic as any locked room. If you call your book “Snowblind” then you better make sure it’s chilling. He does.’ Craig Robertson
‘If Arnaldur is the King and Yrsa the Queen of Icelandic crime fiction, then Ragnar is surely the Crown Prince … more please!’ Karen Meek, EuroCrime
‘Ragnar Jónasson brilliantly evokes the claustrophobia of small-town Iceland in this intriguing murder mystery. Let’s hope this is the first of many translations by Quentin Bates’ Zoë Sharp
‘Ragnar Jónasson is simply brilliant at planting a hook and using the magic of a dark Icelandic winter to reel in the story.
screams isolation and darkness in an exploration of the basic Icelandic nature, with all its attendant contrasts and extremes, amid a plot filled with twists, turns, and one surprise after another’ Jeffrey Siger
‘A chilling, thrilling slice of Icelandic Noir’ Thomas Enger
‘A stunning murder mystery set in the northernmost town in Iceland, written by one of the country’s finest crime writers. Ragnar has Nordic Noir down pat – a remote small-town mystery that is sure to please crime fiction aficionados’ Yrsa Sigurðardóttir
is a brilliantly crafted crime story that gradually unravels old secrets in a small Icelandic town … an excellent debut from a talented Icelandic author. I can’t wait to read more’ Sarah Ward
‘Is King Arnaldur Indriðason looking to his laurels? There is a young pretender beavering away, his eye on the crown: Ragnar Jónasson …’ Barry Forshaw
‘An intricately plotted crime novel,
is a remarkable début. Ragnar Jonasson has delivered an intelligent whodunnit that updates, stretches, and redefines the locked-room mystery format. A tense and thrilling book that paints a vivid portrait of a remote town in long-term decline, facing the chilling aftershocks of the global financial meltdown. The author’s cool, clean prose constructs atmospheric word pictures that recreate the harshness of an Icelandic winter in the reader’s mind. Destined to be an instant classic’ EuroDrama
‘Snowblind is a beautifully written thriller, as tense as it is terrifying – Jonasson is a writer with a big future’ Luca Veste
translated by Quentin Bates
For Kira, from Dad
The red stain was like a scream in the silence.
The snow-covered ground was so white that it had almost banished the winter night’s darkness, elemental in its purity. It had been snowing since that morning, big, heavy flakes falling gracefully to earth. That evening there was a break in the snowfall and no more had fallen since.
Few people were about. Most people stayed indoors, happy to enjoy the weather from behind a window. It was possible that some of them had decided to stay at home after the death at the Dramatic Society. Tales travelled swiftly and the atmosphere was heavy with suspicion, in spite of the town’s peaceful outward appearance. A bird flying over the town would not have noticed anything unusual, would not have sensed the tension in the air, the uncertainty and even the fear, not unless it had flown over the little back garden in the middle of the town.
The tall trees surrounding the garden were in their winter finery, taking on shadowy shapes in the darkness that were reminiscent of clowns rather than trolls, decked in delicate white from the ground up, in spite of the snow weighing down some of their branches.
A comforting light shone from the warm houses and the street lights illuminated the main roads. This back garden was far from being hidden in gloom, even though it was late.
The ring of mountains protecting the town was almost entirely white that night and the highest peaks could just be glimpsed. It was
as if they had failed in their duty these last few days, as if something unexplained, some threat, had stolen through the town; something that had remained more or less unseen, until that night.
She lay in the middle of the garden, like a snow angel.
From a distance she appeared peaceful.
Her arms splayed from her sides. She wore a faded pair of jeans and was naked from the waist up, her long hair around her like a coronet in the snow; snow that shouldn’t be that shade of red.
A pool of blood had formed around her.
Her skin seemed to be paling alarmingly fast, taking on the colour of marble, as if in response to the striking crimson that surrounded her.
Her lips were blue. Her shallow breath came fast.
She seemed to be looking up into the dark heavens.
Then her eyes snapped shut.
It wasn’t far off midnight, but it was still light. The days were growing longer and longer. It was the time of year when each new day, brighter than the day before, brought with it the hope of something better, and things were looking bright for Ari Thór Arason. His girlfriend, Kristín, had finally moved into his little flat on Öldugata, although this wasn’t much more than a formality. She had been staying there most nights anyway, except those just before an exam, when she liked to read in the peace and quiet of her parents’ house, often far into the night.
Kristín came into the bedroom from the shower, a towel around her waist.
‘God, I’m tired. Sometimes I wonder why I went for medicine.’
Ari Thór looked round from the little desk in the bedroom.
‘You’ll be a fantastic doctor.’
She lay on the bed, stretching out on top of the duvet, her blonde hair spread like a halo on the white of the bedclothes.
Like an angel
, Ari Thór thought, admiring her as she stretched out her arms and then ran them gently down her torso.
Like a snow angel.
‘Thanks, my love. And you’ll be a brilliant cop,’ she said. ‘But I still think you should have finished your theology degree,’ she couldn’t help adding.
He knew that well enough and didn’t need to hear it from her. First it had been philosophy, until he had given up on it, and then theology. He had packed that in as well, and found himself enrolling in the police college. Roots were something he had never been
able to put down properly, always seeking something that suited his temperament, something with a little excitement to it. He reckoned he had probably applied for theology as a challenge to some god he was convinced didn’t exist; some god who had snatched away any chance he had of growing up normally when he was thirteen, when his mother died and his father had disappeared without trace. It wasn’t until he had met Kristín and – only two years earlier – been able to puzzle out the mystery of his father’s disappearance that Ari Thór began to achieve a little peace of mind. This was when the idea of the police college had first crossed his mind, with the expectation that he’d make a better cop than a clergyman. The police college had left him in fine physical shape, and the weight-lifting, running and swimming had made him broader across the shoulders than he had ever been before. He had certainly never been this fit when he was poring over theology texts night and day.
‘Yeah, I know,’ he replied, a little stung. ‘I haven’t forgotten the theology. I’m just taking a break from it.’
‘You ought to make an effort and finish it, while it’s still fresh in your mind. It’s so hard to start again if you leave it too long,’ she said, and Ari Thór knew she wasn’t speaking from experience. She had always finished everything she set out to do, flying through one exam after another. Nothing seemed capable of stopping her and she had just finished the fifth of the six years of her medical degree. He wasn’t envious – just proud. Sooner or later they would need to move abroad so that she could specialise, something that had never been discussed, but of which he was all too keenly aware.
She put a pillow behind her head and looked at him. ‘Isn’t it awkward having the desk in the bedroom? And isn’t this flat way too small?’
‘Small? No, I love it. I’d hate to move out of the centre of town.’
She lay back, her head sinking into the pillow. ‘Anyway, there’s no hurry.’
‘There’s plenty of space for the two of us.’ Ari Thór stood up. ‘We’ll just have to be cosy.’
He removed the towel and lay carefully on top of her, kissing her long and deep. She returned the kiss, wrapped her arms around his shoulders and pulled him close.