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. Dark, chilling and complex, Nightblind is an extraordinary thriller from an undeniable new talent.
I recently reviewed Snowblind, the first book in Ragnar Jonasson's Dark Iceland series, and after reading the extract from Nightblind at the end of that book, I couldn't resist diving straight in!
About five years have passed since Ari Thor's first case in the small fishing village of Siglufjörður and in this time his old mentor, Tómas has moved away but Ari Thor has missed out on promotion, it is now Herjólfur who is the inspector of the small police station. It is also Herjólfur who answers a call-out to an abandoned property with a dark history, and it is Herjólfur who is shot and left for dead, while Ari Thor is in bed, struck down by influenza.
The shooting shatters the apparent peace of the village and Ari Thor must contend with local politics, long kept secrets and his own guilt as he tries to discover the truth behind the murder of his inspector; a family man whose father was a distinguished police officer himself, the attack shocks not just Siglufjörður but the whole of Iceland.
Ari Thor is sharply aware that he should have been on duty that night, was Herjólfur shot in a random attack on a police officer, or was Ari Thor himself the real target? He realises he knows little about his inspector and is forced to admit to himself that his bitter disappointment at missing out on promotion meant he hadn't made the effort to learn more about the man. Meanwhile his relationship with his girlfriend, and mother of his baby son, is strained and Ari Thor must deal with not only the secrets and lies of the town but also those within his own life. The return of Tómas, drafted in to help investigate the case, at least provides him with a familiar face to work with, but the pair still struggle to uncover a motive for the attack. With the eyes of the country on them, do the local mayor as his deputy know more than they're letting on?
As they slowly expose the dark secrets kept behind closed doors, there is a creeping menace about Nightblind. We are reminded that even the seemingly most peaceful places hide brutal truths. The excerpts from a journal, interspersed between chapters in the book add another layer to the mystery. We soon learn this journal belongs to a patient on a psychiatric ward - but who are they and how are they connected to the case Ari Thor is investigating? How too, is the scene of the murder connected? Why has this unsettling, malevolent property now become the site of two sudden deaths?
Nightblind is a tale as chilling as the snow and ice of Siglufjörður, the suspense builds gradually as Ari Thor uncovers the horrific truth. He remains the complex and conflicted character from Snowblind, although now less affected by the claustrophobia that dogged him in the first book, he still feels like a newcomer and forced to investigate suspicious and reticent locals means he struggles to know who he can trust. Although published as the second book of the Dark Iceland series in the UK, Nightblind also works as a standalone novel. Ragnar Jonasson has crafted a superb, contemporary tale, the social issues in the book are a strong and important theme making it a compelling addition to the Icelandic Noir canon. As with the first book, I thoroughly recommend it to anybody who enjoys tense, atmospheric thrillers. I'm very much looking forward to catching up with Ari Thor again in Blackout and Rupture.
Nightblind is published in the UK by Orenda Books. You can follow Ragnar Jonasson on Twitter as @ragnarjo and Orenda as @OrendaBooks
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