Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson

Maurice cover

Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson was translated from the Icelandic by Quentin Bates and published in the UK in 2015, it’s the first in a series.

Ari Thor is one of those people who quickly loses interest in things and rarely finishes anything. After giving up on studying theology in Reykjavik he switched to training to be a policeman. When a job comes up in Siglufjordur – a very remote fishing village in the north of Iceland Ari Thor applies for it. He hasn’t even talked it over with his partner Kristin who is a doctor in a Reykjavik hospital, they had been talking about marriage so his departure for the far frozen north is a shock to her.

As you would expect of such a remote area the townspeople are insular, it’s the sort of place where you’re always going to be thought of as an outsider and although Ari Thor’s boss seems to be friendly enough he isn’t happy when his new ‘boy’ proves to have a mind of his own and puts forward theories of his own. When the local celebrity who wrote a best selling novel decades ago is found dead at the bottom of stairs it’s assumed that it was an accident, but Ari Thor isn’t so sure.

I really enjoyed this one which has a good mixture of crime and personal life. Ari Thor finds it difficult to settle down in Siglufjordur where the winter is much colder than in Reykjavik and the snow triggers feelings of claustrophobia in Ari Thor – even before the avalanches cut the small village off from the rest of Iceland.

Snowblind reminded me very much of the Icelandic TV series Trapped, but that was written by Baltasar Kormakur – but I suppose anywhere in an Icelandic winter is going to have the same sort of atmosphere. I enjoyed Snowblind enough to make me want to continue with the rest of the books in this Dark Iceland series.

I read this one for 2019 European Reading Challenge which is hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader.

Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan

Bonjour Tristesse cover

Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan was first published in 1954 but my copy is from 1955 when it was published in English, translated by Irene Ash. It’s a slim volume with just 132 pages. It was published when she was just 20 years old and had dropped out of the Sorbonne. The book is written in the first person.

This is a very simple tale, but it’s beautifully written. Cecile is just 17 and since her mother died when Cecile was only two she has had her father to herself. He’s now 40 years old and is described as being an attractive, pleasant and sophisticated hedonist, and he’s rich. His hobby seems to be falling in love with very much younger women, but he tires of them within a few months and Cecile is quite happy with that situation, she knows none of his women are going to be a threat to her relationship with him. Cecile is conducting her own holiday affair with Cyril, a young student.

Her father has rented a large white villa in the Mediterranean for the summer and he and Cecile are accompanied by his current girlfriend the red-haired Elsa which Cecile is happy about but when she discovers that her father has also invited Anne, the woman who had been her mother’s best friend she’s upset by the prospect of them all being together. Anne is 42, elegant and a successful fashion designer. Cecile should feel gratitude towards Anne as she had taken her in hand when she was at an awkward stage in her development and was suffering from a lack of motherly advice on clothes and such.

Cecile immediately sees Anne as an enemy although that isn’t immediately obvious, but when Anne begins to throw her weight about it’s obvious that things aren’t going to turn out well.

I really liked this one which I read for the 2019 European Reading Challenge which is hosted by Rose City Reader.

And also for the Classics Club

A Nest of Vipers by Andrea Camilleri

A Nest of Vipers cover

A Nest of Vipers by Andrea Camilleri was published in 2013 but the translation copyright is 2017 and it was translated by Stephen Sartarelli.

I had already seen this one on television, I really enjoy the Montalbano series – as much for the locations in Sicily as for the crime solving and characters, but I must admit that I was a wee bit disappointed with this one. I had actually seen it ages ago on TV but either I misremembered the outcome, or they changed it for TV which I think is possible as the ending I remembered is better.

Anyway, I’ve only read one of these Montalbano books before and I don’t recall noticing that it was about 95% dialogue, which is all very well – and makes for a quick read, but there’s very little in the way of description of the area, no real sense of the locations.

An elderly widower is found dead in his dining-room by his son, but it seems he has been poisoned and also shot in the head – overkill, so to speak!

It transpires that the victim led far from a blameless life and there were plenty of people who would have liked to see him dead, in fact about half of the town of Vigata. Montalbno gets to the bottom of it of course with the help of Fazio and Augella.

There’s a lot of semi-comedy especially with Montalbano’s girlfriend Livia turning up for a visit. They bicker from the first second, even on the phone, but it’s Italy so they’re supposedly in love. I hadn’t realised before that she is useless at cooking and not much better at housekeeping, and crucially Livia and Montalbano’s domestic help Adelina hate the sight of each other so Montalbano has to forego his usual delicious meals cooked by Adelina while Livia is there and he has to dodge Livia’s terrible attempts at cooking.

This is mildly amusing but I will only give it a three on Goodreads.

I read this one for the 2019 European Reading Challenge which is being hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader.