SNARE by Lilja Sigurdardottir
Orenda Books; 4/1/18 (US)
CBTB Rating: 4/5
The Verdict: fresh, propulsive Nordic Noir
There’s nothing like finding a publisher whose books you know you can always trust, and Orenda Books is one of those publishers for me. Naturally, when I learned that Orenda was publishing Icelandic crime writer Lilja Sigurdardottir’s thriller SNARE in English, I jumped at the chance to read an early copy - and I’m so glad I did. SNARE is an addictive blend of high-stakes thriller and Nordic sensibility—a debut novel that delivers enough tension for action thriller readers, a chilling atmosphere for fans of Nordic Noir, and a plot twist strong enough to surprise seasoned psychological thriller devotees. Lilja Sigurdardottir is an author to watch in the Scandinavian crime space, and SNARE injects the genre with a personality and style all its own.
After a messy divorce, attractive young mother Sonia 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 Sonia embarks on a relationship with a woman, Agla. Once a high-level bank executive, Agla is currently being prosecuted in the aftermath 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.
I’ll be the first to admit: I don’t typically read thrillers involving the drug trade, so I was just a bit hesitant when I discovered that SNARE centers around a woman who is smuggling drugs into Iceland. I went into this book unsure of what to expect, and came out a fan of Sigurdardottir's unique brand of taut, pacey crime fiction. My experience reading SNARE is proof positive that, given the right circumstances, pushing yourself outside your reading comfort zone can be such a rewarding exercise. I will never be a reader who seeks out books on the drug trade, but in the case of SNARE, my experience reading it was not diminished in the least by this subject matter. In fact, I ended up loving how Sigurdardottir blends this high-stakes plot with a very character-driven story; this balance made the book very accessible to a reader like me, who doesn’t feel entirely inclined towards action thrillers.
Speaking of character-driven: SNARE is nothing if not a vividly human crime novel. While the story’s plot might involve a crime ring and some truly high-stakes moments of tension, this story shines most in its engaging, often quite endearing characters. In fact, SNARE is at its most tense when the story's central characters are faced with threats against their loved ones—a testament to the emotional investment readers will feel in the characters Sigurdardottir crafts.
This strong character development is a hallmark of Nordic Noir, and Sigurdardottir more than lives up to the genre’s already high standards. Readers meet Sonia, a mother who, following a painful divorce, is desperate to earn money so she can regain custody of her son... and becomes involved with some very bad people; Agla, a banking professional who is being investigated for crimes contributing to Iceland’s economic crash; and Bragi, a customs officer whose job has become his whole world as his beloved wife's health deteriorates due to Alzheimer’s. These characters are wonderfully complex: none is perfect, and all have (in one way or another) made inexcusable decisions. Nevertheless, readers will find themselves rooting for these characters and wishing the best for them. I always love when an author can establish that kind of tension: an imperfect character who readers become invested in and root for regardless of his or her flaws, and Sigurdardottir does this in spades.
SNARE marks the arrival of a fresh voice in the world of Scandinavian crime. Readers looking to be swept up in a breathless, tense journey into the underbelly of idyllic Iceland will find Sigurdardottir’s story compelling and propulsive; readers looking for a character-driven Noir read will fall in love with the human, flawed, and endearing characters Sigurdardottir has crafted. Without spoiling anything, it’s also worth mentioning that the ending of SNARE is about as strong a plot twist as any I’ve read lately—a quality not typical of Nordic Noir, but a very welcome surprise. SNARE delivers an accessible and engaging genre-bend: a high-stakes, yet vividly human, Nordic Noir novel.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions my own.
About the Author:
Icelandic crime-writer Lilja Sigurdardóttir was born in the town of Akranes in 1972 and raised in Mexico, Sweden, Spain and Iceland. An award-winning playwright, Lilja has written four crime novels, with Snare, the first in a new series, hitting bestseller lists worldwide. Translation rights have been sold in eight countries to date, and film rights have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. Lilja has a background in education and has worked in evaluation and quality control for preschools in recent years. She lives in Reykjavík with her partner.
Series: Reykjavik Noir
Paperback: 276 pages
Publisher: Orenda Books (US: April 1, 2018)
Crime by the Book is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the above book.