Book Review: Snow Blind by Ragnar Jonasson (Translated by Quentin Bates)

21 May

9781910633038-275x423

The first volume in Ragnor Jonasson’s Dark Iceland series makes its long awaited English language print début.

In this intricately plotted crime novel a small community is placed under suspicion when the town’s most famous resident is murdered.

Overshadowed for far too long by its higher profile Scandinavian neighbours, Icelandic crime fiction is finally getting the recognition it deserves. With its long dark winter nights, volcanic landscape, and palpable existential ennui brought about by the financial crisis Iceland is proving to be fertile ground for a new generation of writers that are using their finely tuned creative antenna to tap into the nation’s Zeitgeist and use the genre to critique the chain of events leading up to and following the tumultuous economic meltdown.

With its third title new publisher Orenda Books is alerting English speaking readers to a new and distinct voice who has already earned a reputation as one of Iceland’s foremost crime writers and will shortly be known as one of Nordic Noir’s big hitters.

Co-founder of the crime fiction festival Iceland Noir, Ragnor Jonasson has translated fourteen Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic. His short story Death of a Sunflower was published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. A second story was published in the Crime Writers’ Association 2014 anthology Guilty Parties. With his full length début Ragnar has delivered delivered an intelligent whodunnit that updates, and expands the locked room mystery format.

The Dark Iceland series is set in Siglufjörður. A small fishing town in the north of Iceland situated just below the Arctic circle, its economy was once dependent on the herring industry. After years of overfishing the town went into long term decline when the stock failed to appear in 1969. Decades after the boom and bust it’s become a tight-knight community. A place where everybody knows each other and it’s safe to leave doors unlocked. The tranquility of this deceptively perfect town is forevermore shattered when a local celebrity is found dead at the local theatre.

A second crime is recounted through the use of flashback, ensuring the reader is constantly suspicious of the town’s inhabitants.

Ari Thór  is the town’s new police officer. Directionless and adrift, he is unsure of what to do with his life. Having dropped out of theology and philosophy degree courses he joined the police force. Offered the opportunity of a two year posting in a remote northern town he accepts without consulting his girlfriend despite knowing she will be unable to leave Reykjavik because of her work and study commitments.

In winter months Siglufjörður is only accessible via a narrow tunnel. Surrounded by snow topped mountains, the area is covered in darkness from November until January. The hero’s sense of intense emotional claustrophobia is compounded by hostile weather leaving him unable to escape the town and facing the prospect that he’s trapped in the region having to cope with treacherous atmospheric conditions and the knowledge that a killer is at large.

A tense and thrilling book that paints a picture of a remote town in long-term decline. Ragnar Jonasson’s personal links to the area has ensured that Snow Blind conveys verisimilitude on every page. His grandfather lived in Siglufjörður and wrote about its history.

The author’s cool, clean prose constructs atmospheric word pictures that recreate the harshness of an Icelandic winter in the reader’s mind. Highly sophisticated storytelling techniques reveal a writer who has soaked up every lesson he could learn from Golden Age crime fiction and made it his own. Achieving the seemingly impossible, Ragnar Jonasson has reinvented the locked room mystery for a more sophisticated readership.

Translated by Quentin Bates, Snow Blind is destined to be an instant classic.

Snow Blind can be ordered from Amazon:

snowbling-blog-tour-2

Newcastle Noir in Springtime!

10 May

andylawrence71:

Members of Stirling’s Nordic Noir group were at the Newcastle Noir festival and they have written an excellent report on the weekend’s talks.

Originally posted on Nordic Noir:

NN word cloudAnother year has passed…and this blog is two years old!  The Nordic Noir trend seems to be in its middle ages, new TV shows being made as we patiently wait, filling our time with tv shows from other places with similar elements –  dvds, box sets and books a plenty, not all new but some newly translated. We even had the marvelous Sophie Grabol over last summer for a stint at the Edinburgh International Festival in the third of the James plays.

We started the year with a small Nordic Noir New Year celebration followed by a Nordic Noir Burns Supper.  It would seem that as a group of like minded friends we can work the Nordic and Montalbano theme into any social occasion! Montalbano is easy, nice food and something that evokes sunshine.  The Nordic is a bit more challenging but the social commentary element is ever present!

Sheila reading Tam O Shanter at the Nordic Noir Burns Supper Sheila…

View original 708 more words

Nordic not Noir

4 May

andylawrence71:

Stirling’s Nordic Noir group recently visited the London Book Fair and have written about the new Scandinavian titles seen and the role played by translators in bringing these dark tales to our high street bookstores.

Originally posted on Nordic Noir:

On a recent trip to London Book Fair (an industry event where many book rights deals are negotiated)  to assist at the Publishing Scotland stand  I was delighted to discover a Nordic countries stand.  The stand was sizeable and each country had their own section. Groups such as the Swedish Literature Exchange and the  Finnish Literature exchange were represented.

I picked up copies of The Swedish Book Review which is the journal of the Swedish-English Literary translators’ Association.  It contains information on upcoming Swedish titles translated into English and other related articles.

I also picked up some of the catalogues from Icelandic publishers Crymogea (mainly art and photography books) , Odinsauga and Bokabeitan who describe themselves as a ‘progressive new publisher with a mission to promote reading for children, teens and young adults.’ Their keywords are quality and choice.  I loved Odinsauga’s raven logo and their choice of font, it reminded me…

View original 225 more words

Petrona Award 2015 – Shortlist

26 Mar

Petrona Logo 9

Books from Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden have been nominated for the 2015 Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year.

Now in its third year, the Petrona Awards commemorates the pioneering work of Maxine Clarke who was one of the first bloggers to write about Scandinavian crime fiction. The award is open to English language translated Scandinavian fiction published in the previous twelve months fiction and novels set in Scandinavia.

The nominees are:

THE HUMMINGBIRD by Kati Hiekkapelto tr. David Hackston (Arcadia Books; Finland)

THE HUNTING DOGS by Jørn Lier Horst tr. Anne Bruce (Sandstone Press; Norway)

REYKJAVIK NIGHTS by Arnaldur Indriðason tr. Victoria Cribb (Harvill Secker; Iceland)

THE HUMAN FLIES by Hans Olav Lahlum tr. Kari Dickson (Mantle; Norway)

FALLING FREELY, AS IF IN A DREAM by Leif G W Persson tr. Paul Norlen (Doubleday; Sweden)

THE SILENCE OF THE SEA Yrsa Sigurðardóttir tr. Victoria Cribb (Hodder & Stoughton; Iceland)

This year’s winner will be at the announced at the annual international crime fiction event CrimeFest, held in Bristol 14-17 May 2015. Godmother of modern Scandinavian crime fiction, Maj Sjöwall, co-author with Per Wahlöö of the Martin Beck series, will present the award.

Previous winners of the Petrona Award are Liza Marklund for Last Will, translated by Neil Smith and Linda, As in the Linda Murder by Leif G W Persson also translated by Neil Smith.

Nordic Noir expert Barry Forshaw said “The Petrona Award goes from strength to strength, with both winners and shortlisted authors representing the very finest in the Nordic Noir genre; I’m pleased to be involved.”

The judges’ comments on the shortlist:

515+sGmHkgL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

THE HUMMINGBIRD: Kati Hiekkapelto’s accomplished debut introduces young police investigator Anna Fekete, whose family fled to Finland during the Yugoslavian wars. Paired with an intolerant colleague, she must solve a complex set of murders and the suspicious disappearance of a young Kurdish girl. Engrossing and confidently written, THE HUMMINGBIRD is a police procedural that explores contemporary themes in a nuanced and thought-provoking way.

51yn0J21xUL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

THE HUNTING DOGS: The third of the William Wisting series to appear in English sees Chief Inspector Wisting suspended from duty when evidence from an old murder case is found to have been falsified. Hounded by the media, Wisting must now work under cover to solve the case and clear his name, with the help of journalist daughter Line. Expertly constructed and beautifully written, this police procedural showcases the talents of one of the most accomplished authors of contemporary Nordic Noir.

51ePHbjkPZL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

REYKJAVIK NIGHTS: A prequel to the series featuring detective Erlendur Sveinsson, REYKJAVIK NIGHTS gives a snapshot of 1970s Iceland, with traditional culture making way for American influences. Young police officer Erlendur takes on the ‘cold’ case of a dead vagrant, identifying with a man’s traumatic past. Indriðason’s legion of fans will be delighted to see the gestation of the mature Erlendur; the novel is also the perfect starting point for new readers of the series.

human-flies-978144723276601

THE HUMAN FLIES: Hans Olav Lahlum successfully uses elements from Golden Age detective stories to provide a 1960s locked-room mystery that avoids feeling like a pastiche of the genre. The writing is crisp and the story intricately plotted. With a small cast of suspects, the reader delights in following the investigations of Lahlum’s ambitious detective Kolbjørn Kristiansen, who relies on the intellectual rigour of infirm teenager Patricia Borchmann.

51U7ONo5qzL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

FALLING FREELY, AS IF IN A DREAM: It’s 2007 and the chair of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Lars Martin Johansson, has reopened the investigation into the murder of Swedish Prime Minister Olaf Palme. But can he and his dedicated team really solve this baffling case? The final part of Persson’s ‘The Story of a Crime’ trilogy presents the broadest national perspective using a variety of different techniques – from detailed, gritty police narrative to cool documentary perspective – to create a novel that is both idiosyncratic and highly compelling.

51TwxIzIpqL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

THE SILENCE OF THE SEA: Yrsa Sigurðardóttir has said ‘I really love making people’s flesh creep!’, and she is the supreme practitioner when it comes to drawing on the heritage of Icelandic literature, and channelling ancient folk tales and ghost stories into a vision of modern Icelandic society. In SILENCE OF THE SEA, an empty yacht crashes into Reykjavik’s harbour wall: its Icelandic crew and passengers have vanished. Thóra Gudmundsdóttir investigates this puzzling and deeply unsettling case, in a narrative that skilfully orchestrates fear and tension in the reader.

For further information visit:

http://www.petronaaward.co.uk/

DVD Review: Hostages – The Complete Season One

24 Mar

hostage_dvd_2d

A family is caught up in a maelstrom of chaos in the tension filled Israeli thriller series Hostages. Loyalties are stretched to breaking point as deceit and subterfuge is exposed and the boundaries between right and wrong become blurred in a high octane slice of Noir.

Making history by being the first Israeli series to air on BBC, Hostages comes hot on the heels of Sky Atlantic’s Prisoners of War, signalling that Israel television is flourishing and now ready to compete on equal terms with Scandinavian and American productions.

hostages_1_hr

In the all important market of format sales interest in Hebrew TV programmes is at an all time high. Homeland, a remake of Prisoners of War, will air its fifth season later in 2015 and In Treatment, an adaptation of BeTipul, was a critical success that won Emmy Awards and Golden Globes

Rights to another series Yellow Peppers has been bought by the BBC, a remake is currently in production. HBO is developing an American version of the warm drama House of Wishes.

With media execs studying Israeli TV schedules for projects that could be re-developed for an English speaking audience it was inevitable that Hollywood would come calling once the cameras started rolling on Hostages. Jerry Bruckheimer (Top Gun, Pirates of the Caribbean) bought the rights to make an American version while the original was still in production. Billed as a ‘new 24′ the remake starred Toni Collette (Muriel’s Wedding, The Sixth Sense).

Expanded to fifteen episodes the American version which aired on Channel 4 introduced new characters and added sub plots. A bloated remake lacking the original’s punch it under-performed in the ratings, and was cancelled after a single season.

hostages_3_hr

Now available on DVD, the Israeli original is a pacey pared to the bone thriller. Winner in the category of Best International Drama Series at the 54th Golden Nymph Awards, Hostages offers an addictive rush of tension, plot twists, and shadowy motivations.

Hostages proves that like its Nordic counterpart, Hebrew Noir excels at crafting strong female characters. Ayelet Zurer (Man of Steel, Angels & Demons) plays eminent heart surgeon Dr Yael Danon. Head-hunted to perform a routine bypass operation on the Prime Minister. A career high becomes a nightmare when her family is held hostage and threatened with execution unless she kills the Prime Minister.

Faced with a seemingly unsolvable moral dilemma, Yael must chose between saving her family or the Prime Minister. Unwilling to accept the situation on her captor’s terms she is resolved to freeing her family and ensuring that nobody dies on her operating table.

A tight family unit splinters once secrets and lies start to unravel leaving Yael unsure of who she can trust. Her husband has made some poor investments and tried to hide an eviction notice. Assaf, a hormonally charged teenage son has been hacking into the school’s computer, accessing exam papers to impress a girl in his class. Noa, Yael’s daughter, is pregnant.

hostages_2_hr

Taut character driven drama that piles on layer upon layer of pressure before blindsiding the viewer with a succession of unexpected plot twists. Complex emotional scenes collide with operatic bursts of action to create overwhelming feelings of paranoia,claustrophobia, and euphoria. Nail biting stuff from the opening frames to the closing credits.

Hostages – The Complete Season One can be ordered from Amazon:

Book Review: The Last Days of Disco by David Ross

19 Mar

41+jI4fBopL

The 1980s is vividly recreated in a comedic and poignant novel by first time author David Ross.

A coming of age story set in recession hit Scotland. An entire generation’s fragile hopes and dreams is perilously close to being crushed by mass unemployment and the Falklands War. More than a nostalgic look back at the decade taste forgot, The Last Days of Disco is a warm and witty account of youthful exuberance and the irrepressible urge to forge a new and better life in a town with limited prospects self improvement.

Fat Franny Francis is undisputed king of Kimnarnock’s mobile disco scene. Unchallenged champion of the turntables, he reigns supreme in the local dancehalls, and is the person to hire for birthday parties and wedding receptions. Long-term friends Bobby Cassidy and Joey Miller hatch a plan to set up their own mobile disco and challenge Fat Franny Francis’ supremacy.

Celebrating the seven inch single’s power to momentarily lift people out of the doldrums, The Last Days of Disco is a Trainspotting for the vinyl era.

The author has lived in Kilmarnock since a teenager and used his intimate knowledge of the area to craft an authentic recreation of the era that never falls prey to misty-eyed revisionism or caricature. Packed with social realism, humour, and pathos the book expertly recreates the epoch’s joys and tears.

Readers of a certain age will be transported back to their youth and once again get to relive a time when Shakin’ Stevens was the UK’s biggest selling male solo act. For those who were born after the 1980s, The Last Days of Disco captures the decade in all its harsh monochromatic glory.

Filled with characters that will make you want to laugh and cry, often in the space of a single page, Ross has written a tragi-comedic novel that might topple Trainspotting‘s crown and become Scotland’s favourite book of the last fifty years.

The Last Days of Disco can be ordered from Amazon:

Last Days Banner1

An Interview with Torquil MacLeod

12 Mar

Meet-me-in-Malmo-cover1

Ahead of the paperback reissue of Meet Me in Malmö Scottish born writer Torquil MacLeod discussed seeing the book back in print, writers that have influenced his career, and future plans.

Currently based in Cumbria, MacLeod has been travelling to Sweden since 2000 to see a son that lives there. Introduced by his son to serving police Detectives working in the same police station Henning Mankell set the Wallander novels, Torquil was inspired to begin work on a film script before deciding to turn the idea into a novel.

Meet me in Malmo has been available for some time as an e-book. Why the transition to a printed edition?

Meet me in Malmö started out as a hardback, but the publisher wouldn’t reprint it when its small run sold out. So, when I got the rights back, I put it out speculatively as an ebook. Luckily, it has been successful over the last two years, along with the follow-ups. I was approached by McNidder & Grace, who I had worked with before on an art book, and they had ambitious plans for a crime section. They’ve signed up a number of new crime writers, so it seems like an exciting opportunity.

Are you hoping that your book will find a different audience when it hits the high street stores?

I don’t think the paperbacks will necessarily find a different readership; just one which doesn’t like Kindles! I’ve had quite a lot of correspondence from readers who have friends and family who they say would like the books, but are not into e-readers. The same applies to my elderly relatives who would buy the books out of blind loyalty.

Will all your e-books be re-released as paperbacks.

The next two books – Murder in Malmö and Missing in Malmö – are due to be released in June and August through McNidder & Grace.

How important is location to your writing? Could the book have been set in a different city?

Very important. To me, a city, town or rural location is like an extra character. You can’t imagine Morse without Oxford or Harry Hole without Oslo. The location often reflects the main character, and vice versa. In my case, Malmö is almost the brand. It also anchors the stories, even if I the characters wander off to other places – like Switzerland and Berlin in my latest book, Midnight in Malmö. And describing Malmö is also a way of introducing readers to a Scandinavian city. I see it from the outside; it’s a different view from indigenous writers.

Which writers have influenced you?

Though I don’t write spy stories as such, I’ve always been a huge fan of John le Carré. What I’ve tried to learn from him is his use of interviews/interrogations as a way of revealing information and moving the plot along. When I discovered Henning Mankell, I felt an immediate empathy. Not only does he set his Wallander novels in a police station I was familiar with – Anita Sundström was partly based on a friend who worked there – he also places his action in existing locations; blocks of flats, pubs, parks etc. For me they are easier to describe than fictitious ones. Besides, a number of readers seem to enjoy finding them on Google Earth!

What are you working on right now?

I’ve started on an Anita Sundström short story set around Christmas – it may develop into a novella. Then there will be a fifth Malmö novel next year. I may also return to a possible sequel to my Georgian-set crime romp, Sweet Smell of Murder.

Thank you to Torquil MacLeod and McNidder & Grace for making this interview possible.

Meet Me in Malmö can be ordered from Amazon: 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Meet-Malm%C3%B6-Inspector-Sundstr%C3%B6m-mysteries/dp/085716113X/ref=sr_1_1_twi_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1426216410&sr=8-1&keywords=meet+me+in+malmo

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,600 other followers