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Monday, 18 April 2016

‘NightBlind’ by Ragnar Jónasson

Published by Orenda Books,
22 January 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-910633-11-3 (PB)

A mysterious phone-call has taken Herjólfur, the new police inspector of Siglufjordur, a town in the north of Iceland, to a deserted house on the outskirts of town – a house associated with death. There’s a light inside ... then a shot is fired.

This eagerly-awaited sequel to Jónasson’s debut Snowblind doesn’t disappoint – although, confusingly, it’s book 5 in the Dark Iceland series, so that the life of police officer Ari Thór Arason has moved on to include a reconciliation with his girlfriend, Kristin, and a baby son. All seems well, but both Kristin and Ari Thór himself are afraid of his lurking temper, and this theme is echoed in the story of one of the suspects, Elin, who is on the run from a violent partner. The third-person narrative is interspersed with diary extracts written by a patient in a psychiatric hospital, admitted there for a suicide attempt. The traditional-style plot is clever,  with carefully-strewn clues and changes of direction, and the end surprise is satisfyingly unexpected, yet fair. The suspects Ari Thór has to deal with include the mayor and his assistant, a local big-wig from the chamber of commerce, a former drug dealer, and an old lady who knew the house when it was lived in. As with Snowblind, the atmosphere of Siglufjordur is conjured up: the small-town mentality, where everyone gossips about everyone else, the past glories of the herring trade days, the changes brought by the second tunnel which means it’s accessible all year round, the increasing number of tourists. On top of this, the book conjures up the changing seasons, as autumn slides towards winter, and the sun gradually slips behind the mountains, where it will stay until spring, a looming darkness which echoes Ari Thór’s own sense of foreboding as he deals with his tangled case.

A modern twist on a Christie-style plot, in a vividly atmospheric location, and interesting characters. It works well as a stand-alone, but you might want to start with Snowblind, the first Ari Thór novel.

Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Ragnar Jonasson was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1976 and works as a lawyer. He also teaches copyright law at Reykjavik University and has previously worked on radio and television, including as a TV news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. Before becoming a writer, Ragnar translated 14 Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic, and has had short stories published in international literary magazines. Ragnar is a member of the UK Crime Writers' Association (CWA) and recently set up the first overseas chapter of the CWA, in Reykjavik. He is also the co-founder of the Reykjavik international crime writing festival Iceland Noir (, which was selected by the Guardian as one of the 'best crime-writing festivals around the world'. Ragnar has appeared on panels at festivals worldwide, and he lives in Reykjavik with his wife and daughter.

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

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