Snare by Lilja Sigurdardottir
Translated by Quentin Bates
After a messy divorce, attractive young mother Sonja is struggling to provide for herself and win sole 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 by the fact that Sonja is in 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 nail-bitingly 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.
Good people, bad people or just people?
I am not a great believer in evil. In my mind, evil is more a consequence than a cause, as behind so many crimes, when traced back to their roots, there most often is a tragedy of some sort, rather than a decided will to do harm. It´s the result, the consequences for the people victimised by the crimes, that is the true evil.
I spent some time in prison researching for The Reykjavík Noir Trilogy that starts with Snare and came to the conclusion that a majority of crimes are committed by good people. Good people that have made mistakes, been ill, addicted or lost their ground in life by some cause, been ignorant to or in denial about the harm they cause, but are in their essence well-meaning.
The Nordic view on crime and punishment is quite mild and Iceland shares that system where imprisonment is seen as a last resort, only used when people have committed serious crimes. I am probably under the influence of this mild Nordic view on crime, which I do understand is a privileged view of societies that don´t have so much crime.
True to this view of mine I usually don´t write black-and-white characters. In Snare, they are not neither good nor bad, but rather a mixture of both. Even the enemies, the scary ones, have something good in them and the nicest characters that the readers root for, are maybe the criminals.
One of the main characters in the book, Sonja, is a rather well-off young mother and wife when her world collapses, partly because of her own actions, and partly due to greater forces. When divorced, she struggles to make ends meet so that she can regain custody of her son and after falling for an offer to make quick money, she is ensnared in a vicious cycle of drug smuggling. As a reader you condemn what she does and know she is committing criminal acts, but you can´t help but root for her because the reason that she does what she does is her love of her son. You can see the tragedy of her life.
Agla the banker, another character in Snare, is absolutely blind to the consequences of her crimes. She uses reasoning that has been heard very often in the aftermath of the Icelandic financial meltdown: “Everybody was doing it.“ Agla is a woman who has had to fight her way all through life, being the only girl in a big group of siblings and then entering the male-dominated world of finance. So her impulse to do as the others and prove herself to be even better at it, becomes understandable in a way, even though you know its wrong.
Bragi, the customs official who is hunting Sonja down in a game of cat and mouse, is living a tragedy every day, as his wife suffers from Alzheimers´ and is slowly disaapearing before his eyes. Bragi has recently realised that despite living in a welfare society that has solutions and offers for taking care of the elderly and ill, he is completely alone in his heartbreak. And that pushes him to behave in unexpected ways.
Even the little boy Tómas, commits a “crime“ of sorts when he lies to his father about his mother´s situation. An eight-year-old knows that it is not good to lie but he does it in an attempt to help his mother out and in his young mind he is justified by his love for her, and therefore does not feel guilty even if he knows lying is wrong.
I love writing multi-layered, complex characters that dance on the sometimes fine line between right and wrong. Somehow those types of characters connect to you in a deeper way as a reader. Probably we connect with them because none of us is 100 percent good or evil. We are all a curious mix of both, esentially well meaning people that sometimes do bad things.
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.
Via Orenda Books: http://orendabooks.co.uk/lilja-sigurdardottir/