Dec 5 2017 2:00pm

Review: Nightblind by Ragnar Jonasson

Chilling and complex, Nightblind by Ragnar Jonasson is an extraordinary thriller and the second book in the Dark Iceland series.

Read Kristin Centorcelli's review of Nightblind, then make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win a copy of Ragnar Jonasson's second Dark Iceland novel and a signed copy of the first in the series, Snowblind!

In Ragnar Jonasson’s second novel (following Snowblind) featuring Ari Thór Arason—a young cop in the tiny fishing village of Siglufjӧrdur in Northern Iceland—he’s living with his girlfriend, Kristín, and 10-month-old son, Stefnir. Ari Thór is happy enough, but he tends to dive into his work, neglecting his young family in the process. It doesn’t help that Kristín is restless; the attentions of a handsome doctor at work are hitting their mark and making her wonder if there may be something else out there for her.

Unfortunately for Ari Thór, things are about to get pretty crazy in his small town. His partner, Herjólfer, is at a derelict house in the dark of night when something horrible happens. After he steps out of his car to investigate, a shot rings out. When Herjólfer’s wife contacts Ari Thór, worried that he hasn’t returned home, Ari Thór—in spite of fighting a wicked case of the flu—has no choice but to go look for him. After checking the station, he figures he’s got nothing to lose by checking the only two roads leading out of town. What he finds shocks him:

He knew he wasn’t fit to drive, still half-asleep, sick and weak, and he had to do a double take when he saw the patrol car at the roadside near the Strákar tunnel entrance, next to the old house that had been empty and becoming steadily more dilapidated ever since he had moved to the town.

Growing increasingly uneasy, Ari Thór felt and overwhelming sense of foreboding-almost like a premonition. At that exact moment, he knew that something had happened to Herjólfur. With an adrenaline buzz providing the boost of energy he needed to sideline the flu for a while and think clearly, he pulled up behind the patrol car.

Bracing himself against the freezing rain, his eyes struggling to adjust in the darkness that preceded the dawn, he peered through the car windows, and then opened the doors of the partrol car to see if Herjólfur might be inside.


His concern deepening, Ari Thór surveyed the landscape that surrounded him, the high mountain which the road had literally been carved, and the sea on the other side. There was barely room for this single house there on the side of the road, on what was essentially a landfill site, and beyond it was a sheer and deadly drop into the cold, northern sea. There was no light from the house, his jacket pulled tightly around him as the wind whipped the rain into a frenzy, he wondered if anyone would hear him if he called out. And then there was no need.

Ari Thór finds Herjólfer laying in the gravel and, by the amount of blood present, is shocked that he’s still alive. The police department is horrified. An attack like this, especially on a police officer, is highly unusual in such a small, tight-knit place.

Ari Thór is a bit too close to the investigation, so they bring back his former partner, Tómas, who recently took a job in Reykjavík. Ari Thór gets along with Tómas, but it’s also hard to relinquish control of an investigation. It doesn’t help that Herjólfer’s family is giving off a strange vibe—although his son does point to a possible investigation into the dope trade as the reason for Herjólfer’s presence at that house. Ari Thór isn’t so sure, and getting to the bottom of things proves to be daunting. Additionally, the mayor of their small little town seems to be up to no good, adding an unwanted political aspect to the whole affair.

The book is pretty short, and Jonasson’s narrative is a bit rough around the edges—characters aren’t fleshed out nearly as much as I’d like, but maybe some of that is lost in translation. But I do love how Jonasson uses the strange history (and boy is it strange) of the abandoned home to cast an eerie pall over the case and a town reeling from such a violent crime.

Jonasson certainly knows how to write a procedural. The bones—and potential—of a good series are here, and Jonasson has a finger firmly on the sturdy mechanics of old-fashioned mystery with rewards coming after the application of plenty of shoe leather and working the leads. Dealing with people is difficult, and good cops have to be something between a therapist and a law enforcement officer to get usable results. Police work is not a glitzy job; there are a lot of frustration involved, and those frustrations can bleed over into the detectives’ family lives.

More intriguing than the mystery—which is intriguing enough, don’t get me wrong—is Ari Thór. He’s young and has a lot of growing to do, but there’s a core to him that’s determined to do the right thing—sometimes at the expense of his personal life. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out, as there’s plenty of room for him to grow. Add that to a fascinating setting, and you’ve got an author—and a series—to watch.

Read an excerpt from Nightblind!

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of Nightblind and a signed copy of Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson!

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Dark Iceland Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry https://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2017/12/review-nightblind-by-ragnar-jonasson-comment-sweepstakes at  beginning at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) December 5, 2017. Sweepstakes ends 12:59 p.m. ET December 12, 2017. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.


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Kristin Centorcelli reviews books at mybookishways.com, loves a good mystery, and is a huge fan of boxed wine. You can also follow her at @mybookishways.

Read all posts by Kristin Centorcelli for Criminal Element.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Jackie Mungle
2. jackielou
Why was he there in the empty house? Who hurt him? whats the mystery of the hopuse? and what does the dope trade have to do with this? I'll be waiting to find out.
Karen Hester
3. rosalba
Snowblind is on the reading list for my Scandanavian mystery book group; I would be happy to win.
Jackie Wisherd
5. JackieW
Always enjoy finding new authors. I would like to read this book.
7. Betty Levenson
Looks like an amazing series!
9. cathryn w.
i just can't wait to start this series !
Jennifer Thompson
10. JenT998
Sounds good! Both are now on my TBR list for sure.
Randal Brandt
11. rbrandt
Looks like another fantastic Icelandic crime series. Looking forward to reading it!
Vernon Luckert
12. vl4095
Would love to read this (I have always wanted to visit Iceland).
Carolyn Sherve
15. CWS
Looking forward to reading this book!
Lori Provenzano
21. Mountainesque
Was a time I wanted to visit Iceland. Nowadays, not so sure, given thrillers like this. Would still like to reat the book, though.
Michael Carter
23. rubydog
I would love to win.
Yes, please enter me in this sweepstakes.
27. michael sturm
First book Snowblind was excellent. Can't wait to read book #2!
vickie dailey
28. kidcurry
not very familiar with iceland. Ari Thor sounds like an intersting new character to check out
susan beamon
31. susanbeamon
I belong to a book club that reads a different genre each month. These books would fill in the Scandanavian mystery genre when it comes up.
Amy Drees
32. governmentality
I love Sandanvian mysteries! So glad to find another great author.
Andrew Jensen
33. atinman
Having read SnowBlind I'm looking forward to NightBlind. Would buy even if I don't win a copy.
Lorraine Bowen
39. rainey54
Would love a chance to read this series.
Alicia Sargant
43. asarge
I'd love to add these books to my reading list
44. Polly Barlow
This appears to be an intriguing crime series. I would like to read both books by Jonasson.
Richard Derus
48. expendablemudge
Crossing all my crossable parts to get these great sounding books.
Marybeth Mank
50. Gr8chefmb
DAMN!!! I literally sped through the excerpt!!! I can only imagine how engrossed I will be with the whole book. :-)
Christine Smiga
51. ceecee76
These both sound like excellent books! Thank you for the chance to win them.
Susan Morris
52. Samfor3
Can hardly wait to read the rest of this book!
Suzanne Parent
56. suz.parent
I've read Ragnar Jonasson's first book in the Dark Icelandic series, and loved it. So naturally, I would love to read the second and any others in this series. I love the fact that he has picked Reykjavík as his setting since one of our law professors is part of the Arctic Council working to determine the fishing rights near Iceland & he stays in Reykjavík! I like to read about places I've never been to. S. Parent, Portland Maine
59. Carl Scott
Sounds excellent! Thanks for the chance to win both books.
vicki wurgler
60. bison61
thanks - this sounds like a great series
Mary Ann Woods
61. puttputt1198eve
I'm really enjoying reading various Scandanavian authors These books sound very good.
Ann Schroder
62. aschrod
Loved the first book - can't wait to read this one!
Ann Schroder
62. aschrod
Loved the first book - can't wait to read this one!
shannon calvin
64. calvin_renee
I'm starting to read other countries authors. Looking forward to this one.
Marisa Young
65. Risa
Good review - would like to read this series.
Rena Sollish
67. Rena
These stories seem so intriguing -- would love to win them!
john frost
72. jackfro
Would love to start a new Scani-series
Jane Schwarz
73. Janeschwarz
This seems like an interesting series. Thanks for the opportunity to win.
teresa sopher
74. tas58
This is great. Was just reading about these books the other day.
Esther Whatley
75. ewhatley
Thanks for offering both books in this series. They've had great reviews and I would love to win.
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