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.
Icelandic Noir has never fallen from the pages of a thriller so eloquently! Dark and chilling, Nightblind has been written with a beautiful prose and a narrative that just begs to be devoured. It’s almost impossible to put down, one page is quickly followed by another, each chapter morphing effortlessly into the next and the characters fall off the page with a gritty enthusiasm.
Set in a small fishing village, once a renowned herring hot spot, an industry long since forgotten that helped shape the town and her personality, Nightblind is a modern take on an Agatha Christie novel. No great surprise given Ragnar Jónasson’s passion for the writer having translated numerous novels into Icelandic.
No matter how good a foreign language story is, a book relies heavily on a strong translation and Nightblind is no exception. Translated by Quentin Bates – who incidentally lived in Iceland for a decade as a teenager and young adult – he does a splendid job in bringing Ragnar’s words to an English speaking community. As I’ve already mentioned, it reads very well and the flow is arguably one of the best this year, for me at least.
Not only is Nightblind chilling it evokes an insular feeling that never leaves for you are never afforded the opportunity to escape this small community. Ari Thór is undoubtedly the star of the show but he’s anything but perfect. Struggling with his relationship with his live in girlfriend and balancing parenthood with a demanding job, especially after the initial shooting, things don’t always go to plan. But then where would be the fun if they did?
The clues are there allowing the reader to guess the final outcome and it all unravels beautifully in the end, a fitting finale to a terrific book. Frábær!!
Published by Orenda Books.