Author: Ragnar Jónasson
Publisher: Orenda Books
Publication Date: 1st December 2015
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.
Despite having read hundreds of crime fiction books over the years, most of them have been set in the obvious settings of the UK, America, Australia etc. It was only when I read books such as Tom Callaghan's A Killing Winter and M.J. McGrath's The Bone Seeker that I got a real taste for these sorts of books set in bitter cold settings and especially those set in foreign or obscure (to me) places. Something else I don't read a lot of, in fact I could count the books on one hand, is translated fiction. I don't know why it's never appealed to me, but I guess if a book is good then it's good no matter how it's delivered and Nightblind was brilliant.
I did wonder whether being new to the series and to the character of Ari Thór whether I would be a little lost but the story can easily be read standalone. When I read 'local policeman, whose tumultuous past and uneasy relationships with the villagers continue to haunt him', I was immediately intrigued and wanted to know more. I love small town settings, especially in crime fiction and Siglufjörður is just a brilliant setting. Vivid descriptions really brought it to life in my mind and it wasn't just because of the British weather that I was actually chilled to the bone at times reading the book but because Nightblind is such an atmospheric read in places. I even Googled further about the setting, and watched a video on YouTube of the tunnel which you use to access the small fishing village.
What's interesting to me is that setting aside, and how different the cultures and people can be, the actual crimes themselves are familiar but the way in which they occur and how they are investigated differ greatly and the odd thing was this didn't so much take me out of my comfort zone, but actually put me right into the heart of the story, almost becoming a witness to everything that was unfolding. The murder of a policeman shatters the peace of this close-knit community and it's up to Ari Thór to find out who the killer is, but that's not going to be easy as there are various strands to this story that start to play out, before ultimately coming together for a dramatic and thrilling conclusion.
Nightblind is simply put a stunning mystery with a real puzzle to solve, more than one actually and Ragnar Jónasson creates real tension, and there's enough red herrings and twists to make this rather short crime novel actually feel much longer. I always remind myself in the back of my mind never to confidently think that something is going to happen, as there's always room for a surprise or two in crime fiction and there's certainly plenty of those here. And now, I have the first book in the series to go back and read which is very exciting and I can't wait.