Nightblind is ace. It has pace and pith, and enough depth in which to sink a ship.
What with Ragnar Jónasson’s series of thrillers (of which Nightblind is the second), and the TV series Trapped currently on BBC FOUR, it’d be easy to think that the northern Icelandic town of Siglufjörður is quite the crime hotspot. It isn’t. But you can’t blame anyone for picking the town as the setting for a claustrophobic, closed-community mystery: Siglufjörður is the perfect backdrop. It isn’t a town where nothing happens. But it is a town where a dropped stone has consequences, not just for those directly involved but for characters on the periphery.
There are moments when you wonder whether Jónasson has got it in for public servants. For none of them will life be the same again. In a weird way, that emphasises the unusual nature of the crime and the town: if Siglufjörður really were crime central it would be impossible to run services. Yet this town, remote and occasionally inaccessible, clearly runs well and is recovering somewhat from the financial crash referred to in Snowblind.
Nightblind reacquaints us with Ari Thór Arason, an excellent protagonist. Ari Thór has grown up, a little, since we last met him, but is still junior enough to share with us his thought processes (indeed, junior enough to have thought processes) when his boss is shot on an assignment which he himself should theoretically have taken, and then when his old boss from Snowblind returns to investigate the case, but he is still a relatively blank canvas. The writer is able to take the theme of the novel and apply it to the not-quite-rookie law and order man. It’s a measure of the fine writing that we still root for Ari Thór even when there are suggestions that we should not. I’ll leave it to you to find out whether he justifies that faith.
Meanwhile, there is a mystery to work through. Jónasson uses the same, successful formula as in Snowblind: there is a point at which Ari Thór tells us he has solved the case. That’s the reader’s point to review the clues provided so far. Like a good Christie, the information is all there, should you be careful enough to process it. There is no sudden, unexpected and unearned twist. Also like Christie, the language (expertly translated by Quentin Bates) is stripped down: fresh and unflowery. But unlike Christie, you spend your time afterwards thinking not of the plot twists but about the theme of the novel itself. It’s crime with something to say. Check it out.
Thanks to Orenda Books for the review copy.