First in the Reykjavik Noir Trilogy 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 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. 'A tense thriller with a highly unusual plot and interesting characters' Times 'This first novel of a planned trilogy is stylish, taut and compelling and a film adaptation is in the pipeline. With characters you can’t help sympathising with against your better judgement, Sigurdardottir takes the reader on a breathtaking ride’ Daily Express ‘Snare will ensnare you’ Marie Claire A taut, gritty, thoroughly absorbing journey into Reykjavik’s underworld’ Christine Tran, Booklist ‘Lilja Sigurdardottir delivers a diabolically efficient thriller with an ultrarealistic plot … We cannot wait for Sonja’s next adventure’ L’Express ‘A smart, ambitious, and hugely satisfying thriller. Striking in its originality and written with all the style and poise of an old hand. Lilja is destined for Scandi super stardom’ Eva Dolan ‘For a small island, Iceland produces some extraordinary writers, and Lilja is one of the best. Snare is an enthralling tale of love and crime that stays with you long after you have turned the last page’ Michael Ridpath ‘Zips along, with tension building and building … thoroughly recommended’ James Oswald ‘Crisp, assured and nail-bitingly tense, Snare is an exceptional read, cementing Lilja’s place as one of Iceland’s most outstanding crime writers’ Yrsa Sigurdardottir ‘Clear your diary. As soon as you begin reading Snare, you won’t be able to stop until the final page’ Michael Wood ‘Snare is a great read and the finale is both shocking and unexpected … a Wizard-of-Oz ending, without the laughs. Terrific and original stuff' Max Easterman, European Literature Network
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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 the Reykjavik Noir series, hitting bestseller lists worldwide. Trap was published in 2018, and a Book of the Year in Guardian. The film rights for the series have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. Lilja lives in Reykjavík with her partner.
Read an Excerpt
November to December 2010
There was no coffee left in her paper cup. Sonja stood still by the circular table and pretended to sip through the hole in the plastic lid, watching the check-in line for the flight to Iceland. Kåstrup Airport was quiet at this late hour with only a few airlines still having flights scheduled, so the sound of 'Jingle Bells' sung in Danish could be heard, tinkling from the café's loudspeakers. The Samsonite suitcase brochure was on the table in front of her and she turned the pages occasionally, although there was no need. She knew it off by heart by now and clearly recalled those pictures she had marked the last time she had been through this airport.
There were still two hours until her flight departed, but Sonja was already mentally preparing herself to postpone travelling and use the seat she had booked for the next morning instead. That was plan B. It made no difference whether she travelled that night or the next morning, anyway; all the preparations remained in place. She always had a fallback position and often postponed travelling, or took another route when things didn't work out, or if she had a hunch that something was wrong. There was never anybody waiting for her at the other end and she had become accustomed to staying at airport hotels.
She was just coming to terms with having to put plan B in action, when she saw the woman come into the terminal building. She was walking fast, but slowed her pace as she took in how short the line for check-in was. Sonja could almost hear her sigh of relief. The woman was tall, with typical Icelandic mousy-blonde hair, and as Sonja joined the line behind her, she felt a stab of guilt in her belly about what she had planned for her. This complete stranger had never done her any harm. Under other circumstances Sonja would have happily killed an hour chatting to her while they waited at the airport. But this was no time for guilt. The woman was exactly right. No need for plan B now. It was her silver Samsonite case that made her so perfect, and the fact she had a smaller bag on her shoulder, which meant she would be checking in the case as hold luggage. It was just as well that Icelanders were so style conscious, even when it came to suitcases.
The line inched forward and Sonja watched the woman as a reminder not to leave luggage unattended echoed through the airport's loudspeakers. The woman appeared to have her mind on other things, as she seemed either to have not heard the announcement or thought it didn't apply to her. She didn't even glance to one side to check on her case, as most people did instinctively in response to the announcement. Just as well she wasn't the worrying type; it only made Sonja's job easier.
Sonja smiled as a family joined the line behind her. This was going to be almost too easy.
'Go in front if you like,' she offered.
'You're sure?' the man asked, already manoeuvring a pushchair containing a child in front of Sonja.
'People with kids ought to go first,' she replied amiably. 'How old are they?'
'Two and seven,' said the man, and his answer was accompanied by the fond smile that fathers invariably have when they mention their children. Sonja had often tried to analyse this smile and always came to the conclusion that its main ingredient was pride. She wondered if Adam still smiled that way when he spoke about Tómas. It was two years since she had last seen Adam, other than by chance. These days their only communications were short text messages concerning what time Tómas could be collected and when he should be returned.
She watched the family shift their baggage and children forwards as the line moved along. It felt like decades since she and Adam had travelled abroad with Tómas as a small child, loaded down with luggage, and constantly concerned about finding somewhere with changing facilities or being the victim of some sharp-eyed pickpocket. Back then they had often been stressed by what now seemed trivial details; they'd had no idea how precious it was to have nothing serious to worry about. The petty things they had allowed to worry them now seemed so unimportant – ever since Sonja had been caught in the snare.
She was struck by how these past regrets were still so painful. Seeing children often sent her on a downward spiral like this. The older boy was seven, but was easily as big as Tómas – or the size he was when she had last seen him. He must have grown since. He seemed to add a few inches every month at the moment.
The blonde with the Samsonite case had reached the check-in desk. Having the family in front of her gave Sonja the chance to make sure that the woman's silver case was checked in and slid onto the conveyor belt without a hitch. It was soon Sonja's turn at the desk and she felt her heart begin to pound. When she had first been caught in the snare, she had felt guilty about how much she enjoyed the fluttering heartbeat, the tension, and then the feeling of well-being that followed, but now she knew there was no other way to do this than by riding the excitement, harnessing the adrenaline rush and using it as a means to an end. It was those who couldn't take the pressure who trembled, their eyes flashing from side to side, and this was what got them caught. Those who stayed the distance were the ones like Sonja: quiet people with middle-class looks and a high stress threshold. And it didn't do any harm to be smart and cautious. Being cautious paid off.
'No baggage?' the check-in attendant asked.
Sonja shook her head and smiled. She handed over her passport and once she had it back in her hand with her boarding pass, she could almost hear her own heartbeat in her ears, like the regular beat of a drum.
Tómas folded two T-shirts and put them in his bag. Then he decided to take the orange pullover his mother had given him as well. His father said it was a girly colour, but Tómas and his mother didn't agree as they both knew it was the colour that the Dutch football team always played in. Dad knew nothing about football, he was only interested in golf. Tómas was actually relieved about this, because the few times his father had come to football practice, right after his mother had moved to Reykjavík, he had stood on the touchline yelling ridiculous instructions: tackle this defender or that one; stop kicking like a cripple; and not to run like an old woman. So Tómas preferred to go on his own. Sometimes, when there was a tournament, he would see his mother among the spectators, waving and giving him a thumbs-up. He could see from her smile that she was proud of him and that she loved to see him running about the pitch, even though he never scored a goal. He hoped that one day Dad would let Mum go with him to football tournaments so she wouldn't have to sneak in and watch him from a distance. She could be like all the other mums, with a snack in a box, and giving him a hug at half-time.
Tómas took his Yahtzee set and put it in his bag. He had asked his mother last month if she wanted to play, but she said that she didn't have a set. Now he was going to fix that – he was going to leave it with her. Nobody at Dad's house ever played it, anyway.
'You're not packing already?' His father's voice was irritable, as it always was when it was anything to do with his mother or weekends with her.
'I just wanted to be ready,' Tómas said, closing his case so that his father wouldn't see the game or the orange pullover. Every time his father took an interest in the contents of his case, there was a problem. Tómas found it was easier to pack early, so that when his mother came to collect him, he could give Dad a quick kiss, say 'I'm ready,' and run for the car.
At the security gate Sonja took off her belt and coiled it into the tray with her overcoat and shoes. The belt buckle was the only piece of metal in her clothing. She had already taken off her earrings and pulled off her rings and stowed them in the pocket of her overcoat. She knew there was no need for this but she wanted to avoid any risk of a body search, even though the packet was secured between her legs, and the security staff would never go as far as her crotch in a search. Being cautious paid off; no harm in being a hundred per cent certain. She held her breath as she went through the metal detector even though she knew it wouldn't squeal. She gave the security staff a quick smile and then took her bag off the conveyor belt. There was nothing suspicious in there, just passport, boarding pass, lip salve, a powder compact, a comb, an open packet of chewing gum, a creased, dog-eared paperback, and the Samsonite brochure.
Sonja watched the family in front disappear into the departure lounge then hurried in the opposite direction, towards the luggage shop. The row of shops was quiet, and she had a moment's panic as she saw that many of them were already closed. She knew that airport shops opened at odd times, depending on the number of travellers, but plan A was in motion now and there was no way back. This had to go smoothly. She walked as fast as the packet in her crotch would let her, taking a deep breath of relief and feeling an almost narcotic high sweep through her as she saw the luggage shop was still open. She said 'good evening' to the sales girl and looked quickly over the shelves. There it was, in a corner at the bottom: the titanium Samsonite cabin case. Sonja lifted it from the shelf and shook her head as the sales girl pointed out that there was a newer model available at a better price. This case was the right one.
Once she'd paid for the case, Sonja took it to the ladies' toilets and locked herself into a large cubicle intended for mothers and babies. She opened the case, scratched off the price sticker and put her handbag in the case, leaving everything inside it but her passport and boarding pass, the paperback and her wallet. That meant there was nothing in the case that could be linked to her. Then she pulled up her narrow skirt, rolled down her tights and pants, and retrieved the packet from between her legs. It was damp with sweat, so she wiped it off with a tissue before putting it into the case's zipped side pocket. Now she just needed to fill it with junk.
Leaving the toilet, she headed back to the shops and walked along the row, looking out for bulky items to fill the case with. As usual, she thought of Tómas. There was always something Christmassy about Denmark, maybe because many Icelandic Christmas traditions came from there, but she wasn't in the mood for the festivities yet, so she passed the decorations and special gifts by. Instead, she bought Tómas a teddy bear emblazoned with a Danish flag, a big tin of biscuits decorated with pictures of the Danish royal family and a giant bag of little chocolates that he could give out to his friends at his birthday party. At the till she added a striped T-shirt and a magazine with footballer stickers she knew he'd like.
Outside the shop she sat on a bench, and by the time she had packed everything in it, the case was full. Sonja stood up and wheeled it behind her to the perfume shop, as it went without saying that a woman passing through an airport should treat herself to something.
Sonja's favourite moment on these trips was the aircraft roaring towards take-off. Maybe it was the awesome power of the engines as they forced her helplessly back into her seat, or the knowledge that she had made it safely through one more airport. Or maybe it was because ahead of her was a relaxed trip through the sky, outside anyone's jurisdiction. She popped a piece of gum in her mouth and put the paperback into the pocket on the back of the seat in front before going through the options on the screen to see if the European flights were showing any new movies. The choice only changed once a month, and as she flew every couple of weeks, she'd often seen them all already. She had, so this time she'd read. The aircraft was quiet now; the flight attendants hadn't begun serving meals yet. Sonja leaned into the gangway to see how many hands were tightly gripping armrests. It was strange to think that she had once been scared of flying herself. But that had been before all this had started.
Bragi pulled the knot of his tie tight and ran a comb through his stone-grey hair. He always relaxed when he arrived at work, as if a burden had been lifted from his shoulders. He couldn't understand people who were reluctant to turn up for work, and he was always irritated by the younger customs officers' eagerness for time off. He enjoyed every minute of his job. There was always plenty to be done, and even a late shift on a quiet night could spring a surprise. It was unbelievable, the things people tried to smuggle in. Just last week he had stopped a shifty character who turned out to have several hundred live frogs in plastic containers in his luggage; and last month there had been the woman with that huge cheese hidden under her clothes. The cheese was made from unpasteurised milk, so Bragi had no choice but to confiscate it, writing out a fine ticket for the woman, who made sure she gave him a piece of her mind as he did so. But those were just the weirdos, and they weren't such a problem compared with the more serious, professional smugglers. Much had changed in his thirty years with the Directorate of Customs, though. Back when he started it had been mainly beer and a little hash that people tried to sneak past customs; that and ham sausage. It was as if Icelanders back then developed a collective madness for ham sausage as soon as they left the country.
These days you could buy Danish ham sausage in any supermarket, it was legal to bring beer into the country and hash smuggling had given way to harder drugs. So now, much of their work involved working closely with the police and their analysts, who monitored the movements of suspects as they left and entered the country. Yet, despite all the infra-red gear, CCTV and sniffer dogs, the smugglers always seemed a step ahead. He couldn't understand why people complained about the police using pre-emptive warrants to investigate potential criminal activity; he felt it was perfectly acceptable in the circumstances. He and all the customs officers were aware there were travellers who were constantly up to something dubious, but neither they nor the police could nail them down. It seemed that the dope business was able to adjust to changing times. He had a strong feeling that these days the small-time mules were no longer trusted; instead they were used as decoys – sent through customs with a few grams, to draw attention away from the real carriers with the large amounts. And the people who were bringing in these serious shipments weren't the junkie kids who were being served up as sacrifices; they had to be ordinary people. Bragi punched his card into the time clock and the click gave him a comfortable feeling of well-being. The time clock had come with them from the old airport building. It was a constant, while everything else around it had changed.
The airport was quiet, with only scheduled flights due to arrive that evening and into the night; Amsterdam, London, Copenhagen. However, an unusually virulent flu epidemic had left them short-handed, so Bragi decided not to make any spot checks that night. There had been nothing flagged up as suspicious by the analysts, so it looked to be an ordinary Tuesday-night shift. There were two officers in the baggage hall, and he sent the young temporary girl, whose name he failed to remember, off to make coffee while he took his place by the window to watch the recent arrivals coming down the staircase.
The crowd walked past it in its usual way, and he reflected, not for the first time, how similar people were to sheep when they moved in a herd. He observed the flow without concentrating on anyone in particular, instead waiting for any warning signs – someone who stood out, who moved out of sync with the rest of the group; anyone looking anxious. As usual, the flow of people divided at the bottom of the steps, with around two-thirds heading for the duty-free shop and the rest going straight to the carousels. As people began to pick up their bags he tried to gauge how many there were for each person; but there didn't seem to be anyone with too much luggage, apart from families with children, of course. With the state the economy had been in since the crash he couldn't blame people for stocking up on cheap children's clothes when they went abroad. One family had eight bags – heavy ones, clearly – but he let them pass through with their sleepy children. If he were honest with himself, though, he just couldn't be bothered to stop them.
Tonight nobody stood out from the crowd. The arrivals hall filled up – with tourists, mostly, and a few regular customers, too, people who travelled frequently. These were faces he recognised: the President's wife; a violinist who flew to London every week; the good-looking woman with the overcoat, who must be working overseas as she travelled several times a month. She always caught his eye – a petite woman with a glamorous quality about her, like a film star. Every time he saw her he wondered if that was why she was so smartly dressed or if there were some other reason.
Excerpted from "Snare"
Copyright © 2015 Lilja Sigurðardóttir.
Excerpted by permission of Orenda Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. Title Page,
2. November to December 2010,
3. December 2010 to January 2011,
4. January to February 2011,
6. About the Author,
7. About the Translator,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Very good thriller about an Icelandic drug smuggler This novel centres around Sonja, recently split up from her husband and keen to gain custody of her son, who ends up in the snare of the title, forced to act as a drug mule. With the added complication of a lesbian relationship with someone involved in banking fraud, she finds herself having to try to get out of her present “life”. With a good deal of characterisation of all the various cast members, the plot moves along at an engaging pace and the whole experience is well worthwhile and doesn't take long. Recommended to all lovers of Scandi noir novels. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
"Snare" is a brilliant crime thriller with a very clever and intelligent storyline which is unique, original and gripping. It has a suspenseful plot line with incredible well defined characters and with it being so thrilling and fast paced this addictive book will have you reading well past your bedtime - I did and loved every minute! It's the first in the Reykjavik Noir Trilogy and considering how good this book is I really can't wait for the next two!! Set in a Reykjavik that is still covered in the dust of a recent volcanic eruption, Sonja has just gone through a messy and heartbreaking divorce which saw her handing over custody of her son to her husband. Falling into the ruthless and frightening criminal world to stay afloat she starts smuggling cocaine into Iceland. Desperately now looking for a way out of trouble she pits her wits again her nemesis, Bragi, a customs officer who has been watching her from afar, every time she lands in Iceland. To complicate matters, Sonja is in a relationship with a woman, Alga. Once a high level bank executive she is now currently being prosecuted in the aftermath of the Icelandic financial crash. I really loved Sonja and truly felt for her predicament, sympathising with her at every move, she's not a bad person but just drawn into a situation she has no control over and is meticulously planning a way out of it all, in the hope of regaining custody of her son Tomas. All through the book I felt trapped in the 'snare' with Sonja and felt her every emotion and action that she took. I also liked the side storyline of Braji and his devoted wife Valdis, who suffering from Alzheimer's appears to be being abused in the care home she is in. Emotional and breathtaking this atmospheric thriller about love and crime really does keep you enthralled until the exciting climax! There's an excellent glossary at the beginning too, to thoughtfully help with the pronunciation of any Icelandic names you don't understand. Fabulously translated by the incredibly talented Quentin Bates, this book's narrative and dialogue flows seamlessly and really makes for an enjoyable read. "Snare" is written by Icelandic crime writer Lilja Sigurdardottir, who has already written four crime novels and this book is hitting the bestseller lists worldwide with translation and film rights have already been bought. I can definitely see this author becoming very famous globally and I for one cannot wait to read her future offerings! 5 stars