Audible version, narrated by Suzannah Hampton.
HSP/animal lover warning (I feel like this is getting to be standard with any crime/thriller novel..): Two dogs are killed, but you as the reader don’t have a personal relationship to the dogs, and it’s not dwelt on.
To my knowledge/recollection, this is the first book I’ve read by an Icelandic author. It’s set mostly in Reykjavik during the Icelandic financial crisis of 2008-2011.
We follow Sonia, a young mother who is being blackmailed into smuggling drugs into the country. All she cares about is her son and his safety, which her blackmailers are threatening. She slowly tries to build up a life for herself to the point where she’ll have enough money to buy an apartment and feel in a position to go into a custody battle with her ex-husband who has primary custody of their son, all the while being worried that she’ll get caught smuggling. She’s not perfect. She cheated on her husband (hence the ex part), she agreed to smuggle drugs instead of going to the police, and even though she’s desperate to get free of the snare, it has more to do with people having power of her and being able to control her life than it does with any moral objection to smuggling. But, she’s real and she’s a fairly sympathetic character. I found myself rooting for her to be able to get free and get custody. Her ex husband is a giant dick and it’s clear that the kid – Tomas – wants to be with his mum, which helps.
There are two other main points of view from which the story is told, as well as a few chapters from the perspective of Tomas, Sonia’s son. The primary alternate POV is that of Bragi, the customs officer. A large part of the book plays out as a game of cat and mouse between Bragi and Sonia, as he gradually starts to suspect her and tries to catch her in the act. On the one hand, you do sympathise with Bragi as well, as you get to know him a little, and see that his life is quite difficult, but on the other hand you don’t want Sonia to get caught – which brings an interesting dynamic to the story.
The third POV is that of Agla, the woman Sonia cheated on her husband with, who as it so happens works in the banking industry with Sonia’s ex husband Adam – that’s how they first met. Agla and other top brass in the bank are under investigation for fraud. She also still has a (secret) romantic involvement going with Sonia. So Agla’s story gives us insight into the banking crisis and the resulting investigations and it also rounds out Sonia’s life and character. I found this POV and this part of the story interesting, and thought that the back and forth between the different POVs worked mostly well.
That being said, the chapters are extremely short, to the point where it got distracting. The paperback edition is apparently 276 pages long, and it has over 100 chapters, meaning each chapter is only a couple of pages (or in my case minutes) long. It was not necessarily the case that each new chapter was written from the POV of a different character, or that there was a noticeable theme change. I guess it’s just a writing style. Nevertheless, the constant announcement of a new chapter did get in the way of immersing myself in the story, and I think I would have felt the same way while reading.
Another thing that bothered me was Sonia’s naivety. On the one hand she’s this really cool and collected drug smuggler that plans everything out in excruciating detail, and also has a long-term plan for her life, while on the other hand she doesn’t see past the tip of her nose. And – mini spoiler – at one point she thinks she frees herself from the snare by doing something which she has by no means considered all the consequences of and that I found kind of ridiculous. This naivety or short-sightedness is IMO incongruent with other sides of her personality.
And, while I liked the ending, it was a little abrupt.
So, overall an enjoyable read that was exciting and kept me on my toes, with some minor detractors.