Statistically, the occurrences of violent crime in Iceland are miniscule, but with Nightblind Ragnar Jónasson shows readers that the gap between a low crime rate and a low rate of reported crime is a chasm rather than a crack. When his English-language debut Snowblind appeared last year, I dubbed Ragnar Jónasson’s work cozy noir, and now that the second book in the “Dark Iceland” series has been released, this genre moniker seems even more appropriate. Jónasson takes readers into the icy depths of Scandinavian criminality, but does so in an almost genteel manner.
When his boss is severely injured in an off-the-books raid on a purported drug den, Ari Thór Arason works with his previous supervisor to uncover the truth behind this seemingly unfathomable crime. Still considered an outsider by most of Siglurfjördur’s residents and even those in the police department, Ari Thór once again faces an uphill battle on his way to foster justice.
Ari Thór comes to believe that this senseless crime is somehow tied to the local mayor and his colleagues. One of those employees – a young woman from another part of Iceland – comes to Siglurfjördur with a cache of secrets and more than a bit of trouble following on her heels. Ari Thór will have to tread lightly if he is going to keep from making some very powerful enemies.
Things on the home front are not much better for Ari Thór Arason. With a newborn son at home, Kristín Arason is feeling overwhelmed with responsibility and neglected by her ever-busy husband. When her flirting with a local doctor begins to become more serious, she knows it is time to make some serious decisions about her future with Ari Thór.
Meanwhile, the current plot is repeatedly interrupted by the story of a patient under psychotic observation at a clinic. Crime fiction fans know that this will eventually tie into the current case but Jónasson does an admirable job of obfuscating exactly where this piece of the puzzle fits until very late into the novel.
Nightblind makes the perfect follow-up to Snowblind. Once again, readers are taken to an unfamiliar and unforgiving landscape – both geographically and metaphorically. Ragnar Jónasson tackles massive topics ranging from domestic violence and mental health policies to gun control and corruption without ever losing sight of the fact that it is the characters that are most important to readers.
As dark as the topics underlying the plot are, Jónasson keeps Nightblind very much in the traditional mystery genre: Disturbing, but never graphic. There are several more novels in the “Dark Iceland” series yet to be translated and readers are going to be clamoring to get their hands on them.
I would be remiss in not praising Quentin Bates’ beautiful translation. There is none of the clunkiness often associated with translated works to be found in Nightblind. While I can only imagine what the original Icelandic must sound like, Bates manages to keep the text streamlined and evocative without sounding discordant or anachronistic.
Disclaimer: A print version of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.