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Dark drug-related thriller set in Iceland

23rd October 2017

Snare by Lilja Sigurðardóttir (translated by Quentin Bates) – dark drug-related thriller set in Iceland.

Snare is Lilja’s fourth novel, and the first in a new series. No doubt that Lilja is a great addition to the increasing number of Icelandic crime writers. Snare is a well-crafted, well-written (and well-translated) thriller.

thriller set in Iceland

The subject matter is bleak. Sonja is recently divorced from Adam, and lives for her fortnightly weekends with their son, Tómas. She has a lover, Agla – and was found in bed with her by Adam, which hastened the divorce. Adam is also fighting his own battles. He used to work at a Bank with the aforementioned Agla, and they are both being investigated for major international fraud leading up to the 2007 financial crash. Sonja is short of money and is tricked into becoming a drug runner. She is forced to carry on – and grow into a bigger fish – by threats to harm Tómas if she doesn’t. They ‘know where he lives’. Her frequent arrivals at Reykjavik Airport arouse the suspicions of Bragi, a thirty year veteran of the Directorate of Customs. They play a cat and mouse game… [Incidentally, there is much to learn about how to pack a shipment of drugs in luggage without being caught by either scanners or sniffer dogs. Not, I hasten to add, that I intend to try].

The book moves through several violent scenes to a surprising (but believable) denouement. Drug runners are not gentlemen… The actual ending of the book did, though, leave me hanging with several strands not knotted off. I suspect Lilja was setting the scene for the next book in the series. I look forward to it.

A word, too, about Quentin Bates, the translator. Icelandic is a language spoken (and read) by only 340,000 people in the world. Not enough to sustain a successful author. Quentin, himself, is British but lived for many years in Iceland and has established himself both as a great translator (Ragnar Jónasson’s excellent Dark Iceland series, for example), and also as an author of six modern day crime novels set in Iceland and published worldwide. He has done a great deal to advance the cause of Icelandic literature.

Iceland is gaining quite a reputation for Nordic (as opposed to Scandinavian…) noir. It is a reputation that is well deserved.

Tony for the TripFiction team

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