Unsettling.Nightblind, Chapter 1 page 1
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.From Goodreads
Nightblind, book two (in US publishing order according to Goodreads) of Ragnar Jónasson’s Dark Iceland series, takes place five years after book one and continues to follow charming young policeman Ari Thór. The full series ordering by timeline thus far is #1, 3, 4, 5, 2, so when we jump in on this book we’re catching up on some years of context. Ari still dutifully works in the small northern town of Siglufjörður, but inspector Tómas whom Ari was so close with has been replaced by a man named Herjólfur. Their working relationship is cordial but not overly chummy; it’s enough to get along in their quiet town. That is, until a shooting takes them all by surprise, shocking the town and shattering their peaceful tranquility. Kristín, Ari’s previous significant other, has also made an unexpected return bringing Ari renewed vigor in his personal life. It was a very pleasant surprise, but I found myself really missing Tómas in this one. His absence, however, does give Ari an opportunity to really come into his own in this story.
The role of a psychiatric ward patient was especially intriguing in this book and certainly primed me to enjoy it more given my interest in the topic. Short interspersed chapters in italic which we’ve come to stylistically expect follow this unnamed patient’s story. Compared to the mystery person in the italic sections of book one, I found his part in the grander plot much more difficult to guess. Although significantly shorter at barely over 200 pages, this book came alive with a strong plot and held its fair share of surprises. As usual the grand reveal at the end was shocking and unexpected!
One of the less pleasant but plot-critical subjects I’d like to flag due to its prevalence in this book is domestic violence. A number of characters experience its impact either directly or indirectly. As readers we are privy to multiple points of view on the topic including cultural silence, the cycle of abuse, and generational impact. Ragnar writes on this delicate topic respectfully and with purpose, which I appreciated as one of countless people having experienced its effects. This is one of many trigger warnings listed later on.
This was a quick but memorable read. I’d recommend this well-crafted book (and series thus far) to crime mystery aficionados or anyone looking to dip their toe into a short, chilly Nordic Noir.
TW: domestic violence, mental health, infidelity, drug abuse, suicide