THIS REVIEW IS SPOILER-FREE
On Saturday 13th October, I shall be hosting the #BlogTour for Trap, the second in the Reykjavik Trilogy from Lilja Sigurdardottir. So, to whet your whistle and get you in the mood for some Icelandic intrigue, here is my review of the first instalment, Snare.
After a messy divorce, attractive young mother Sonja is struggling to provide for herself and keep custody of her son. With her back to the wall, she resorts to smuggling cocaine into Iceland, and finds herself caught up in a ruthless criminal world. As she desperately looks for a way out of trouble, she must pit her wits against her nemesis, Bragi, a customs officer, whose years of experience frustrate her new and evermore daring strategies.
Things become even more complicated when Sonja embarks on a relationship with a woman, Agla. Once a high-level bank executive, Agla is currently being prosecuted in the aftermath of the Icelandic financial crash.
Set in a Reykjavík still covered in the dust of the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption, and with a dark, fast-paced and chilling plot and intriguing characters, Snare is an outstandingly original and sexy Nordic crime thriller, from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.
Snare was my first introduction to Lilja Sigurdardottir and Reykjavik Noir – and to say I was excited when it dropped through my letterbox courtesy of Orenda Books, is something of an understatement. But as an existing fan of all things Scandic, and having also been recently introduced to the exceptional Gunnar Staalesen (also courtesy of Orenda), Lilja had some fairly big boots to fill. And never have big boots found such a snug fit.
My preference is for no-nonsense story telling – I don’t want fluff in my fiction, I want it dark and it needs to land a hefty punch; and Snare delivered a very satisfying shiner.
Presenting Sonja, another strong female protagonist (Nordic Noir seems especially fond of them) clearly a girl for whom life is never simple and so far hasn’t turned out quite the way she’d planned. The fact is, she’s engineered herself into an unsavoury situation and is now trying to engineer herself out of it. The latter proving to be slightly more problematic than the former.
I have to be honest in that I’m not usually a fan of drug plots, but it’s to Lilja’s credit that once I had started this book, no amount of snorted lines were going to stop me from finishing it. Almost in the same way that Sonja was powerless to escape the Snare, as the reader I too was powerless to wriggle free from the grip of this superbly written Icelandic page-turner.
I was taken by surprise at the conflict I found myself in with regard to Sonja’s nemesis Bragi. Of course, I was rooting for Sonja as she schemed to both fulfil her role within the Snare while simultaneously trying to escape it, but I desperately wanted Bragi to have his last bash at a major haul before his impending retirement. Don’t you just love it when a book makes you slightly uncomfortable with your own morals?!
The brutally short chapters make Snare a pleasure to fly through and some of the ‘will she, won’t she’ moments at the airport made me physically squirm in my seat with anticipation.
Lilja’s portrayal of a struggling country still reeling in the aftermath of a financial crash almost animates Iceland into an additional character without which this book just wouldn’t work. The desperation of its situation magnified by the sombre covering of white volcanic residue from the Eyjafjallajökull eruptions of 2010; symbolic perhaps of the cocaine-ridden depths that Sonja has been forced into.
Credit must also go to the undeniable talents of master translator Quentin Bates who delivers the story perfectly into English for us, and a superb no-frills edit by West Camel, who was also responsible for editing Big Sister by Gunnar Staalesen, another of this year’s favourite reads. But ultimately, my hat is tipped firmly in the direction of Lilja Sigurdardottir, whom I suspect has started something quite big here.
On finishing the all-important last sentence on the last page, I was left with two overriding feelings; firstly, I must know what happens next and secondly, this book is absolutely screaming to be made into a movie.
It was only a couple of weeks later, when I was invited to take part in the blog tour for Lilja’s next book Trap, I made the happy discovery that Snare is only the beginning of Sonja’s story – it seems we are about to find out what happens to her after all. Join me here on the #RandomThings #BlogTour for Trap on 13th October to find out more.
And yes, the film rights have indeed been acquired; so watch this space and prepare to be drawn into the Snare.