Ragnar Jonasson: Nightblind Sunday, Dec 3 2017 

Continuing with holiday gift ideas, this one is for those readers who enjoy a dose of noir, in this case, Icelandic noir.

Ragnar Jonasson introduced policeman Ari Thor Arason in last year’s Snowblind, quickly becoming a bestseller. He returns with the sequel Nightblind, which picks up five years after the events of the first book and continues Ari’s story in the small northern Iceland village.

With his mentor and boss, Tomas, given a promotion and living in Rekyakvik, Ari didn’t recieve the hoped-for promotion to Inspector to lead the team and has not gotten close to the man who landed it, Herjolfur. Recovering from the flu, he’s jolted out of bed by the man’s wife, who claims her husband never returned from a call out.

Ari finds his boss severly wounded in a remote location, and as the inspector is flown south for treatment, Tomas is seconded back to Siglufjordur to lead the investigation into who has taken a shotgun to a police officer.

It’s a tense time as the idea of a police officer being shot is unique in Iceland. All of the defenses of the people the two officers investigate come up and it’s difficult to make headway. Other secrets get in their way as the setting for the shooting was an abandoned house that is known as a spot for the local drug trade.

And at home, with a young son he adores, Ari is convinced his relationship with Kristin, his partner, is suffering. It will take him looking outside the box to piece together what really happened that fateful night as the deterioration of his relationship preys on his mind.

In true dark Icelandic noir fashion, the setting adds to the stark feel of the mystery as events from long-ago surface. Excerpts from an old diary add to the tension and heighten the story of domestic abuse in parellels.

Maggie McConnon: Bel, Book and Scandal Friday, Dec 1 2017 

Auntie M’s December reviews all feature books certain to please readers on your list, so get your pencils out for gift-giving ideas in the next week. First up is Maggie McConnon’s Bel, Book and Scandal.

The third in McConnon’s series featuring chef Bel McGrath brings closure to the mystery thread that appeared in the first two books revolving around her missing high school friend, Amy Mitchell. Being the last person to see Amy on the night she disappeared has led some people in Foster’s Landing to assume Bel knew what happened to Amy, but she never has known and has been more desparate than most to know the truth.

Back home and running the kitchen at Shamrock Manor, the wedding and event site her family own, Bel is trying to get on with her life. With one broken engagement behind her and a recently broken new relationship she had high hopes for, she’s sworn off men as the Christmas season approaches.

Then a photo in a newspaper left at the Manor catches her attention, and Bel is convinced Amy is in the photo. With concrete evidence, or so she thinks, that Amy survived that night, Bel heads to a former commune in upstate New York to find out just what really happened to her friend, uncovering long-held secrets along the way.

As her amateur investigation continues, she will uncover more than she wanted to know about several people living in the area, and put herself in more jeopardy than she’s bargained for.

One of the charms of this series is Bel’s large Irish family, and as the only female sibling, the band of brothers she endures. With slightly eccentric parents she keeps hoping she’ll please, Bel’s cooking skills have risen the Manor’s profile. The behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to please brides and their families adds to the humor that runs through this charming mystery series.

Add in Bel’s saucy asides to the reader, and her mouth-watering food descriptions, and you have a recipe for a fun read guaranteed to please any mystery reader on your list.

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