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Nightblind by Ragnar Jonasson, translated by Quentin Bates

March 2, 2016

Siglufjörður: an idyllically quiet fishing village on the northernmost tip of Iceland, accessible only via a small mountain tunnel.

Ari Thór Arason: a local policeman, whose tumultuous past and uneasy relationships with the villagers continue to haunt him.

The peace of this close-knit community is shattered by the murder of a policeman – shot at point-blank range in the dead of night in a deserted house. With a killer on the loose and the dark arctic winter closing in, it falls to Ari Thór to piece together a puzzle that involves tangled local politics, a compromised new mayor, and a psychiatric ward in Reykjavik, where someone is being held against their will. Then a mysterious young woman moves to the area, on the run from something she dare not reveal, and it becomes all too clear that tragic events from the past are weaving a sinister spell that may threaten them all.

If you have read my review of Snowblind, it will come as no surprise to you that I immediately turned to the second in Ragnar Jonasson’s series about policeman Ari Thor, Nightblind.
Set 5 years after Snowblind, Ari Thor is still in Siglufjörður, now with his wife and very young son, and has recently been passed over for promotion. His relationship with his wife, Kristin, is still on a wobbly path and he struggles with understanding what he can do.

Ari Thor is at home, struggling with flu when a call comes in. The man who got the job he was in for, police inspector Herjolfur, is missing and his wife wants to know what has happened.

Ari finds that he has been shot and seriously injured whilst investigating an abandoned old house just outside Siglufjörður. It should have been Ari on duty and he feels bad because of it and worse when he has to break the news to Herjolfur’s wife and son. As they prepare to travel to Reykjavik where he can get hopefully life-saving treatment, Ari recognises that he will need help to investigate the crime.
Tómas, Ari’s old inspector, is sent to assist him as the news of the shooting goes national. Herjolfur was investigating a tip off about drug dealing at the old house but locals know that this house was also the scene of another tragedy many years before.

Added to this is the fact that Tomas has a relative that is involved in dealing in in Siglufjörður, which makes Ari quite uncomfortable.

The local mayor and his deputy both seem to have something to hide in this affair and there’s meddling from local politicians. Meanwhile, in the background, we are treated to extracts from a journal clearly from someone locked up in a psychiatric ward.
How all these people and events are connected slowly becomes clear as the arctic winter starts to set and the dark chill of the murder combine to create an atmosphere of chilled fear and dread.
I thought this book was darker than Snowblind, but just as atmospheric and even more chilling. The descriptions are still fabulously poetic and the plotting tight with well-developed twists. The denouement was surprising – always a bonus in a crime novel – and the violence swift and compelling.

I find I like Ari Thor a great deal. His uncertainty in his personal life, combined with his thorough detection, lacking in pyrotechnic surprises, is a great bonus. I hope he continues to grow and mature as the series continues – in Nightblind he certainly manages to develop his own path.

 

Beautifully written and ably translated, Nightblind is highly recommended.
Nightblind was published by Orenda Books on 15 Jan. 2016

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