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review 2017-11-18 17:53
"Snowblind - Dark Iceland #1" by Ragnar Jonasson
Snowblind (Dark Iceland) - Quentin Bates,Ragnar Jónasson

I must be missing something here. "Snowblind" attracts lots of four and five-star reviews and is the first book in the best-selling "Dark Iceland" quintet, yet I found it fundamentally unsatisfying.

I'm told the language is poetic. I can see that it's trying to be. I quite liked the way in which Jonasson expresses the soft oppression of never-ending snow in phrases like

    "The freezing darkness swallowed him up."


    "He had tried to listen to classical music to drown out the deafening silence of the incessant snowfall, but it was as if the music magnified the gloom."

It works but it's not exceptional.

I'm familiar with snow and deep cold and the claustrophobia that living beneath a mountain can bring. They're well captured here but not well enough to sustain the book.

The plot stretches my willingness to suspend disbelief and the way in which our young policeman unravelled the secrets seemed to me too hard to swallow. The man isn't just intuitive, he's psychic.

I think the heart of my dissatisfaction with this book is the policeman Ari Thor. I could not find a reason to care for him. He seems an empty man. He starts many things but finishes none. He ties himself in knots about integrity and gets indignant about love and yet is too weak to live to either standard. I know he's young but if he's that callow, where's the interest?

If you fancy a Miss Marple in the snow, set around an Icelandic village drama society rather than an English one and with modern accents, local colour and the occasional stab at the lyrical, then this is the book for you.

I'm sure it would make great television. All the moody camera work and mournful atonal music could fill the gaps where the rest of the novel should be.

I had a similar reaction to Ann Cleaves' "Raven Black" and that made great television and has a huge fan base so perhaps I'm just not equipped to savour this kind of book.

I don't think that's going to change so I'll pass on the rest of the "Dark Iceland" quintet.

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text 2017-07-14 14:44
Historic Places: Iceland

Finally, a new post on my blog! Enjoy a virtual trip to Iceland with me. :-)




Source: samanthawilcoxson.blogspot.com/2017/07/historic-places-iceland.html
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review 2017-04-04 00:00
Out of the Blue: New Short Fiction from Iceland
Out of the Blue: New Short Fiction from ... Out of the Blue: New Short Fiction from Iceland - Helen Mitsios https://msarki.tumblr.com/post/159185306988/out-of-the-blue-new-short-fiction-from-iceland

In the introduction to Out of the Blue it states that “Icelanders read and write more books per person than do inhabitants of any other country.” Impressive remark and certainly an attention-grabber for somebody like me. Always on the lookout for literary types I feel somewhat banished to the wilderness of my own locale. Living now in Florida, though tropical, and the outlandish opposite of Iceland, I am drawn to these people who use stories to shape get-togethers as much as we might use music to dance to. These thoughts of mine added to the excitement of discovering more Ingmar Bergman types or a possible sighting of Godot making hay on the horizon. But instead I am disappointed. For the most part these tales bore me. An occasional work of interest would reveal itself from time to time, but usually the story was too simply put, straightforward and predictable. The harshness and severity of the landscape and climate felt absent from the literature. But I read on not knowing what to expect and minus any preconceived ideas I might have had when I first began this project. It made me feel bad that this collection was letting me down, and I wished almost desperately for it to be otherwise. Only a quarter of the way through and I was already feeling disheartened and threatening myself with the urge to quit.

The first story to actually grab my attention was titled Killer Whale. The writer Gunnarsson adroitly expressed a father’s death wish resolve which heartened me and furthered my interest in plodding on into additional collected texts. But they continued to fail me. Each further entry devolved in more of the same. For a country so involved in literary matters I expected a more skilled and serious effort. The darkness I had been expecting, and openly wishing for, eluded the text. There were no budding Becketts nor Ingmar Bergmans in their midst. I flipped through the pages front to back and begged for a sentence to strike me as profound or disturbing. But it never happened. And so quit my charge.
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review 2017-03-15 07:38
A cold case dominates this Icelandic detective novel.
Rupture (Dark Iceland) - Ragnar Jónasson

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This detective thriller takes place in Iceland and involves investigations by Ari Thor, the main detective, and Isrun, a Reykjavik journalist into a cold case from 50 years earlier as well as more recent up-to-date cases both locally in northern Iceland and in the capital. There's sub-plots to intrigue the reader as we discover more about the main characters. The whole thing is engaging and well-written as the characters are developed and fleshed out. I enjoyed this and ploughed through it quite quickly which is always a good sign. It's the second of these novels by Jonasson that i've read and I preferred it to Blackout.

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review 2017-02-09 10:40
Rupture (Dark Iceland) - Ragnar Jónasson

Siglufjörður is closed off due to a virulent virus. Ari Thór, to pass the time, agrees to look into a mysterious death from half a century ago. In the uninhabited fjord of Hedinsfjörður a woman had died of accidental causes. There were supposed to be only 4 people and a baby living there at the time, but a photo emerges showing a fifth person. Ari Thór begins to investigate, aided by Ísrún, a news reporter in Reykjavik, who becomes wrapped up in a death and a child’s disappearance.


Whilst this book is part of a series it can be read as a standalone novel, as can any of the series. Indeed, the English Language versions are published out of sequential order.

The storyline lent an almost nostalgic bent to the story, given part of it was set in the distant past, with all but one of those affected long dead. Knowing the outcome for the woman who died makes it all the more tragic, as does the case of the suspicious death in the capital, and the circumstances that surround it.


One thing that stands out in the Dark Iceland series is that Iceland itself is a major character in the book. The sites, the geography, the weather, all effect the story, all bring another layer to the tale. Iceland is a beautiful country, with it’s own unique atmosphere and vibe and this comes across in the novels. The mountains that surround the town, together this time with the virus, make its inhabitants seemingly cut off from the rest of the world. The sense of isolation is added to by the fact that so few characters appear in the story, only a handful complete the tale, making the town seem almost deserted.


As with the rest of the books in the series it is easy to fly through Rupture. Short paragraphs lend themselves to the obvious ‘just one more chapter’ promise to oneself and often end on a cliff-hanger that obviously means another must be read.


The characterisation is solid. There were times when I didn’t particularly like Ari Thór, his grumpiness sometime verging on unnecessary rudeness and Ísrún could often be found to verge on this herself. Kirsten, Ari Thór’s on/off girlfriend appears briefly in this novel and whilst she had annoyed me in past outings, she was more agreeable in Rupture.

This outing is slightly different in that a major part of it focusses on the incidents and investigations Ísrún carries out in Reykjavik, who is looking into a suspicious death and the kidnap of a boy that has shocked the country, all the while, battling her own health and personal issues. The storyline is solid and engaging and given there are three threads, not complicated or easy to loose track off.


Ragnar Jónasson’s literary past includes translating Agatha Christie into Icelandic. That influence shows in that he has created strong characters, with their own idiosyncrasies and foibles, possessing of course a keen eye for detection and giving all of his novels the closed room feel of a classic crime novel.


A sign of a great translation is the fact that the reader forgets they are reading a translated work. That is the case with Rupture. Quentin Bates has done a fantastic job of allowing English language readers the chance to experience this book. Whilst I obviously don’t know the original Icelandic version, it feels as if Quentin Bates has been true to the original and retained the voice of Ragnar Jónasson.


Another great installment in the Dark Iceland series. I’m looking forward to reading the rest.

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