Year 2 / Book 46-48: Scandi thrillers x 3

Book reviews are running behind the reading at this point, but we are all set to hit a book a week for the year again, just about. I’m grouping these three together under ‘Icelandic / frozen North’ for obvious reasons…

46) The Shadow District by Arnaldur Indridason
I’ve read almost everything by Indridason in the past and enjoyed those with Erlendur as the protagonist especially. That series tailed off a bit for me from the earlier books, and The Shadow District is a completely new departure into the past, with a wartime / present-day time-jumping narrative and some new main detectives. It felt to me as a reader that Indridason is enjoying this much more and has his mojo back: it’s a clever plot revolving around crimes in Reykjavik in wartime when American soldiers were cavorting with young Icelandic girls. The characters are great too, particularly Konrad who is one of those people who has ‘retired’ but can’t really retire – but all come to life vividly and are well drawn and believable, even those back 70 years in time. There’s also a surprising amount of emotional heft and modern Icelandic history included here too. Although not quite up to the standard of those early dark Reykjavik novels, this looks to be a good series in the offing: I’ll be looking out for the next instalment.

Score: 7/10

BUY IT NOW: The Shadow District

47) Midnight Sun by Jo Nesbo
A bit similarly to Indridason, I feel that Nesbo’s books have tailed off in quality in the last couple. Still entertaining, but a bit over-complex and out-thinking themselves – and Harry Hole has sort of gone through being every detective cliche to feeling like he’s fresh again back to being a cliche. Anyway, I picked up the much slimmer Midnight Sun at Acton Central’s trusty community bookshelf, and I didn’t regret it. It has the urgency and pace of Nesbo’s earlier novels but also, like Indridason’s foray into the wartime, Nesbo seems to be relishing a totally new tale with new characters. It’s an involving story of a man drawn into drug dealing which gradually escalates until he is on the run from Oslo’s drug kingpin, The Fisherman (presumably he gets his hooks into you etc…). He heads north and that takes him to an isolated community, a strange religion, a cabin in the woods and (obvs) a beautiful woman. It’s a lovely sweep of a tale which carried me over the finish line of its deeply implausible ending. And you can knock it off in a couple of hours..which you certainly couldn’t say about The Thirst (the last Nesbo I ploughed through). Slight and ephemeral but a fun, filmic read nonetheless.

Score: 7/10
BUY IT NOW: Midnight Sun: Blood on Snow 2

48) Snare by Lilja Sigurdardottir
This was an impulsive Kindle download to add to the thrillers piling up (virtually) in the depths of my iPad. Anyway, a good cover and a seeming personal obsession with Icelandic crime led me to dive in and it was really worth it. The plot revolves around a woman (Sonja) who is a drug mule and her escalating attempts to free herself from the trade; alongside this, she is in a relationship with Agla who is herself embroiled in a scandal connected to Iceland’s financial collapse; finally, there is a customs official Bragi due to retire with a wife with Alzheimer’s being poorly treated in a care home. The three strands weave together effectively to the finale, and it’s high tempo, high tension stuff all the way. Sonja, in particular, is brilliantly portrayed and eminently believable, despite the less believable plot elements – I was completely on her side throughout. It’s a smart, sharp and sexy read, and I’m not in the slightest bit surprised that it’s been snapped up by a film production studio: I can completely imagine it on the big screen. But for now it works brilliantly as a fast-paced thriller to read. Recommended.

Score: 8/10
BUY IT NOW: Snare (Reykjavik Noir)

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