by Ragnar Jonasson, (trans. Quentin Bates)
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.
I am currently enjoying the excellent TV crime drama Trapped, set in a remote Icelandic town populated with interesting and mysterious characters. The Christie-esque isolated setting remained me of Ragnar Jonasson’s Ari Thór Arason series also set in the beautiful yet cold, dark and harsh Icelandic terrain, this time Siglufjörður in the north. I enjoyed the first in Jonasson’s series Snow Blind and found the follow up, Night Blind, to be even better.
Police Inspector Herjólfur is investigating at an old crime scene, a derelict house on the edge of town, when he’s shot at close range. Iceland may have more guns per capita than anywhere else but, even for a society of hunters, this is a shocking crime.
With the killer unknown and the dark arctic winter approaching attention falls on the other local cop, Ari Thór Arason. He should have been on duty that night and suspects were it not for his feeling ill, he could have been the victim. Instead he could be set for the promotion he’d missed out on.
Now in charge Ari Thór calls in his old work colleague Tomás for assistance in managing the investigation. The small town and tight community makes it difficult to work the case and old family ties only add to the complication in a place where everyone is connected and nobody can be completely trusted, not least the local politicians.
Ari Thór is having a testing time with his girlfriend Kristín, baby Stefnir, and burgeoning relationships. He’s a flawed character with more to give in future books. The gripping story is interwoven with a mystery diarist/narrator as we hear from a psychiatric ward in Reykjavik, where a patient is being held.
It’s a satisfyingly complex, multi-layered mystery packed with characters that walk the line between friend and foe.
About Ragnar Jonasson:
Ragnar Jonasson is author of the international bestselling Dark Iceland series. His debut Snowblind, first in the Dark Iceland series, went to number one in the kindle charts shortly after publication. Ragnar was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1976, where he 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. 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. From the age of 17, Ragnar translated 14 Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic. He has appeared on festival panels worldwide, and lives in Reykjavik with his wife and young daughters.