Nightblind by Ragnar Jonasson – Review

Published by Orenda Books

Publication date – 15 January 2016

Translated by Quentin Bates

Source – review copy


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 received a copy of this book from the publisher and this is my honest opinion of the book.

Five years after the events in Snowblind we find Ari Thór Arason settled with Kirstin in Siglufjörður. They now have a 10 month old son, Stefnir. Tomas’s boss, Ari Thór has left the town, returning to Reykjavik with his family. Having hoped to take over Tomas’ position as Police Inspector, Ari Thór faced disappointment when Herjólfur was given the role. One night whilst Ari Thór is ill, Herjólfur attends a call out. Not returning, Ari Thór goes looking for his boss and finds him shot. Now Ari Thór, with the returning Tomas, must find out who wanted to kill the Inspector and why.

After having read and enjoyed the first in the Dark Iceland series from Ragnar Jonasson, Snowblind, I was eager to return to the sheltered northern Icelandic town of Siglufjörður and its residents. The sense of isolation and remoteness that was apparent in Snowblind is just as apparent in Nightblind. The town feels like it is part of another world or another time and this was extended by the fact that most of the story centres around only a handful of characters. The fact that the story centred on such a small group made the mountainous walls that surround the town seem even closer. The sense of menace of the murder again juxtaposes the sense of a safe haven that the town projects.

Time doesn’t appear to have altered Ari Thór much, he is still impetuous in his investigation of the murder of his boss, asking questions in a manner that could perhaps cause more harm than good. But his intentions are clear to see, he loves his job and wants to ensure he does it to the best of his abilities. His professional abilities are thrown into focus when compared to his apparent unawareness of issues with his relationship with Kirstin, which he is slower to detect.

The murder mystery itself is deftly dealt with. This is a short novel by some comparisons, at just over 200 pages but words are used wisely and the narrative drives on at a pace.  Short chapters are interspersed with extracts from a diary of an unknown psychiatric inpatient, which add a layer to the story. The use of such short chapters and extracts led me quickly through the story as I could always justify ‘just one more chapter’ to myself. The characterisation is clear, I grew more fond of Ari Thór, despite some of his obvious flaws. I welcomed the return of Tomas who is a perfect balance to Ari Thór’s impetuousness and who I hope will return in later books. His calmness and logical thought process perfectly partners Ari Thór’s more eager and direct approach. As for Kirstin, I wasn’t that keen on her in Snowblind and she didn’t appear to be any more personable in Nightblind. Hopefully the further books in the series will highlight Kirstin and her relationship with Ari Thór.

The translation by Quentin Bates again was spot on. I always believe that if I forget I’m reading a translated novel then the translator has done a good job. That was the case with Nightblind.

There is something of an old fashioned, ‘closed room’ feel about this book, aided I think by the fact that there are few suspects and Ari Thór and Tomas get to the conclusion by old fashioned deduction. It also mirrors the remote feel of the town, cut off from it’s modern day neighbours and still perhaps stuck slightly in the shadow of its herring fishing golden age, which long since disappeared.

The next three novels from Ragnar Jonasson will fill in the intervening years between Snowblind and Nighblind and I’m looking forward to them very much. Don’t worry if you haven’t read Snowblind. You can read it after Nightblind without any fear of spoilers.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. I can’t decide whether to read my copy or to wait and read them in order!


    1. janetemson says:

      I’d not even realised I had read it out of order until I started writing my review! I always prefer to read in order if possible but it really doesn’t matter with this series 🙂


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