Series: Dark Iceland (Ari Thor)
Book Number: 2
Read this book for: realistic police procedure, contemporary mystery, minimalist writing, traditional whodunnit, Scandanavian/Nordic Noir
Quick Review: Beautiful, tight read – an addition to my most recommended list. The whodunnit nature of Christie written with the haunting minimalism of the best of Nordic noir.
When his immediate superior – and the only other officer in Siglufjordur – is shot on duty, officer Ari Thor is pulled off his sick leave to find the attacker. In a close-knit community, more secrets lie under the surface than he could imagine, and he and his former boss set about unraveling them in order to find the killer and keep their community from falling apart.
NIGHTBLIND is the second of the Dark Iceland series by Ragnar Jonasson to be translated into English, although it is the fifth in the series, chronologically. While a lot has happened between these two, you can absolutely read this without having read the other three. Nothing is spoiled about them, and while there has been some character development between the novels, it is well enough explained not to be confusing.
And that is a great thing, because this novel is a rare and outstanding read. This novel is part of what is becoming a rare breed – a contemporary mystery novel that forgoes much of the overblown trappings of a thriller that many other crime novels take advantage of, and instead focuses on characters, their secrets and relationships in order to create suspense, intrigue, and to hook you into turning page after page. The simplicity of the plot structure places the focus squarely on the small moments and intimate interactions between the characters, which gives the novel richness, depth, and keeps you fascinated.
The characters are one of the strongest parts of this novel. Ari Thor, Tomas, and the rest of the cast of characters are real in a familiar, quiet way. They have real flaws, real concerns, and real relationship issues that capture the small but important moments in life – for example, a relationship drifting rather than a dramatic breakup. Their motivations seem natural and understandable, and their placement in a small and contained setting like the small northern town of Siglufjordur intensifies their interactions. You can easily relate to them, and as a reader, you become hungry to learn more of their secrets as they are revealed to you little by little.
The process of reading those revelations is made more tempting, because the writing is so beautiful. Ragnar Jonasson’s prose (and its translation by Quentin Bates) is utterly stunning in its minimalism. It evokes emotion in a perfectly understated way, which serves to intensify the emotion behind the writing, rather than diminish it. Also the technique of interspersing the journal entries was very effective at intensifying the suspense in the novel.
NIGHTBLIND is a wonderful, intimate, tightly written classic mystery with contemporary sensibilities. It’s also a very short read, and one which I absolutely recommend you pick up if at all possible. I cannot wait for the next few novels!