The first few chapters of this book made me groan because they read like an airport paperback thriller. Nothing against that genre, it’s just not for me. I thought about quitting the book. But I stuck with it and I’m glad I did. It ended up being sort of a Agatha Christie tribute: a series of murders and unexplained events happening in a sleepy town where everybody knows everyone, only the town is perpetually covered in snow because it’s in the northernmost point of Iceland and barely habitable.
I liked the character of Ari Thor. I know what it’s like to be in my 20s and having to make tough decisions about the future, especially with a potential spouse in tow. I was actually drawn to this because he was supposed to be a former theology student. I wished they had touched on that more but still, I could relate to his character.
The rest of the characters are hit-or-miss although all are harboring secrets so they demand your attention. This isn’t Jonasson’s strong suit: he clearly knows how to flesh out some more than others. It’s a tough thing to do for a first book and he’s not bad at it per se but there’s room for improvement.
The plotting here is kind of rocky too. I would get invested one way and get jerked in another, only to have little explained thanks to obstructionism, which is one of my least favorite writing devices. The point was to draw the story out…and perhaps it was drawn out a little too far.
Still, Jonasson gets the atmosphere of remote Iceland down pat. I felt the claustrophobia in this book. Also, it has one of the better endings to a novel I’ve read this year. That alone, combined with the compassion I have for first time novelists, earned it a 4th star.