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Ragnar Jonasson made an impressive debut in the United States last year with the publication of SNOWBLIND. The titles in the Dark Iceland series, continuing in the U.S. with the newly published NIGHTBLIND (thanks to a fine translation by Quentin Bates), chill readers even before the books are opened. Once you immerse yourself in Jonasson’s understated yet effective prose, the dark and unrelenting cold seems to take over, to the exclusion of all else. Indeed, officer Ari Thor Arason, who constitutes one-half of the Siglufjörður, Iceland (which I now will refer to as “the village”) police department, mentally dwells upon it frequently. In NIGHTBLIND, the darkness takes on new meaning when a highly unusual event occurs that sows the seeds of suspicion and discontent in the small and all-but-isolated fishing village.

"NIGHTBLIND is not a long book by any means, just exceeding 200 pages, but Jonasson’s understated narrative and economic style not only keep things moving but also make every word count."

Please note: The events of NIGHTBLIND take place some five years after those of SNOWBLIND. Future volumes to be published in the U.S. will fill in the gap. That aside, readers who are new to the series will not have trouble picking up on things. Ari, single and not necessarily loving it at the end of the first book, has reconciled with his girlfriend at the start of this follow-up. Their reunion has produced an infant son, which gives the novel a secondary domestic plot to explore when the main story becomes too grim. And grim it is.

Tomas, the former police inspector and Ari’s superior, received a promotion in Reykjavik. Ari was passed over for Tomas’ old position in favor of Herjolfur, an outsider. This results in some uneasy office camaraderie between Ari and Herjolfur. The situation explodes when Herjolfur is shot down late at night while checking out a long-deserted house. No one seems to know why he was inspecting the house, least of all Ari, who would have been on duty if not for sick leave. Tomas returns to the village to aid a still-ailing Ari in the investigation. It is a troubling one, particularly since violent crime is all but unknown in the village and the shooting of police officers is unheard of in Iceland. All that is certain is that the subsequent investigation makes Gunnar, the village’s mayor, and his assistant Elin very nervous for both similar and different reasons. This, in turn, arouses the suspicions of Ari and Tomas.

Meanwhile, Ari is having his own problems at home, even as the subject matter of the investigation provides the possibility that he will receive the promotion that was previously denied to him. Secrets of the past collide with deceit in the present as the investigation slowly proceeds. Ari is somewhat slow but nevertheless methodical in his manner of doing things, and inadvertently uncovers and solves a case or two before discovering Herjolfur’s killer, who is closer to him than Ari ever thought.

NIGHTBLIND is not a long book by any means, just exceeding 200 pages, but Jonasson’s understated narrative and economic style not only keep things moving but also make every word count. It also includes a few pages from BLACKOUT, the next Ari Thor Arason novel scheduled for publication in the U.S., which looks to be really, really good. Additionally, Jonasson includes just a bit of the written work of his grandfather, a well-known author himself and his career inspiration. You can pick up NIGHTBLIND knowing that every word between the covers is worth reading.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 15, 2017

by Ragnar Jonasson

  • Publication Date: July 24, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250193338
  • ISBN-13: 9781250193339