A murder takes place in the isolated Icelandic town of Siglufjörður, where an avalanche has cut off all communication and the unrelenting snow threatens rookie police officer Ari Thór Arason first investigation…
Author: Ragnar Jónasson
Series: Dark Iceland #1
Publisher: Orenda Books
Release Date: 20/04/2015
My Chosen Format: Kindle
My Rating of ‘Snowblind’: 2 out of 5
I really had a high hopes for this one but, sadly, not even my lowest hopes were met as far as enjoyment went with Snowblind. This is actually the first negative review I have written in months.
I have seen so many reviews for this praising how Ari Thor was a wonderful character (some even claimed he would be the perfect book boyfriend) and others praising the cleverness of the plot and the dark, oppressive feel of the locale.
Neither of those things could be further from the truth. Ari is not a wonderful man and he would be the most despicable relationship material were he flesh and blood. Most of the novel is spent with him moaning about how selfish his girlfriend was for not moving with him when he took a new job hundreds of miles away in a near-inaccessible part of the country. Maybe he’s got a point. Why didn’t she move if she valued their relationship? Could it be that, not only was she putting herself through medical school but was also working a job at the hospital? Yes, yes it could. It doesn’t help that Ari is a bit of a wastrel who has, by his own admission, given up at everything he’s ever done in his life. So why would she want to uproot her stable career and her bright future so this man child could play at being a policeman?
He does worse things, in my opinion, that make him scum of the earth as far as ‘relationship material’ goes, but I’ll not go into that as I don’t want to spoil anything. Other than if he was my daughter’s boyfriend he’d need to live in fear. I’ve had girlfriends like this guy. Trust me, to any woman that thinks he’s boyfriend material … you kind of deserve what you get with guys like this. I mean his whole reasoning for not calling at Xmas was laughable. Pennywise the clown lived in the gutter and even he thinks the gutter is too good a place for Ari Thor.
On to the plot.
The novel starts off with a vivid image of a woman, naked from the waist up, bleeding out on a bed of freshly falling snow. It’s a stunning image to start a thriller and my hopes soared to heights they hadn’t previously hit. My hopes then realised they couldn’t fly and promptly fell back down to Earth. What we get after that, for the first half of the book at least, is the slow, plodding introduction of Ari Thor and his miserable love life with that oh so selfish girlfriend (that was sarcasm, I don’t want any hint of my being on this guy’s side to come through).
Each chapter is handily dated so we know where we are. Except for the strange chapters in between the main chapters that aren’t dated. And are inexplicably done in italics. The timeline is further shaken about later on when a crime is committed and, in a strange way, all different chapters/timelines etc actually start to make sense and you feel like you’re on the right page. Just a shame it took so long for that to happen.
I felt the characters in this book were all a bit samey. They either had very similar physical descriptions or near-identical back stories. Nothing about them stood out. And I know this because, for some strange reason, we get the odd chapter from their POVs which is basically just a way for the author to give you ALL of their backstory only for them to give it ALL again when Ari Thor comes and asks them questions.
I know you’re probably thinking ‘why did you give this a 2 if it has no redeeming qualities’ and, I agree, I do make it seem that way, but it wasn’t all bad. The first half of the book is very slow and ponderous and, at points confusing. After the halfway points things start to happen a bit quicker, however. It’s not a fluid quickness that leads up to a rip-roaring ending. It’s more a stop-start quickness, as though the plot is afraid of picking up too much speed, that leads into a juddering halt at a pretty bland and uninspired ending that’s pretty much full of misery for all involved.
I think it was done in such a way to make you want to see what happened next. Sadly, the ending, nor the story that preceded it, has made me want to see where things go from here.
Still, despite that, and despite the reveals that are hidden from the reader, it got quite interesting. Reveals such as big parts of the investigation being given in conversation only for those facts to be done in ways such as ‘And what she told Ari, shocked him to his core’, so you have no way of trying to guess who dunnit … which is the main reason I read thrillers. I’m ok with that kind of storytelling to a degree, but I just felt it was too forced considering it switches from free-flowing conversation to ‘I’m going to hide this from you, mwhahaha’. It almost felt like being given a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle with 999 pieces, solely because the person who gave it to you wanted to put the last piece in themselves to look clever.
I think Snowblind suffered slightly through translation as, much of the speech elements didn’t read like actual speech that people had with one another (I assume in the original Icelandic such flaws do not exist). The sentences were also quite short and snappy and didn’t carry much in the way of beauty about them which often went against parts where the author was trying to settle the scene. I also am a big believer that, if you are trying to convey a sense of darkness and claustrophobia to your reading audience, simply repeating, ad nauseum, that it is dark and claustrophobic is not the way to do it.
I feel that, even with the flaws listed above, this would have been a way more enjoyable read if the main character was likeable. Seeing as how he was the most unlikeable main character I had experienced for a long period of time, I just never felt invested in his story or ever really felt like I was behind him at any point. I just wanted him to fail and be miserable, and that is not how I like to feel about a character that is supposed to be the driving force behind a good book.