Ragnar Jónasson’s Nightblind is the second novel in the Dark Iceland series. Nightblind takes place about five years after the wonderfully atmospheric Snowblind. The third book in the series is Blackout which apparently “picks up the story directly after the events of Snowblind.” Glad there’s an explanation of the time line in the intro. At the end of Snowblind, we left our series character, rookie policeman Ari Thor up in far-way Siglufjördur. I looked up the town on the map, and it is spectacularly beautiful but so remote. It’s easy to see that if you moved there, you’d either love it or hate it. It’s the sort of place that you cannot easily replicate, but the weather is going to dictate your lifestyle.
Nightblind finds Ari still working in Siglufjördur, but now he has a new boss after his old one left and Ari’s bid for promotion was turned down. Ari is living with his girlfriend Kristin, now a doctor, and they have a child together, so at least that past of Ari’s life has resolved. Or has it?
The novel opens with the shotgun shooting of a Siglufjördur policeman, and then follows the investigation as Ari’s old boss, Tómas, returns to head the hunt for the killer. The shooting takes place at an abandoned building at the edge of town near the new tunnel. The building, which already has a tragic, mysterious history, is rumoured to be a liaison spot for drugs, so it may be that the shooting was drug related. The story weaves together threads involving the new mayor and his assistant, Elín while other sections of the novel are narrated by an unidentified mental patient. With Ari distracted by the murder case, Kristin rather calculating weighs her options. The strain of the investigation pushes Ari’s relationship with Kristin to the limit, but perhaps her limit has shrunk since she met a divorced doctor at work.
As in Snowblind, the weather has a huge role in creating atmosphere. While the town, during the summer is beautiful, winter descends along with an accompanying sense of claustrophobia heightened by the reality that there’s one way in and one way out. Storms and snow hammer down on Siglufjördur, forcing people indoors and yet…. there’s still time for violence and murder.
She had been told that soon, around the middle of November, the sun would disappear behind the mountains for its long winter break and it wouldn’t return until late January, when the town would celebrate with solar coffee and pancakes. Elín still found it odd to contemplate complete, round-the-clock darkness.
There’s something almost subversive about the Dark Iceland series. Perhaps it’s because all these dire deeds take place over the holiday season (November-January) and the idyllic location which conjures imagined Christmas card scenes meshes with the dark side of human nature.
No violence in Iceland? That’s bullshit. Sure it all looks quiet and friendly on the surface, but behind closed doors there’s an uncomfortable secret.
Translated by Quentin Bates