Title: The Blackout
Author: Ragnar Jonasson
Publication Date: 30 June 2016 (ePub), 15 July 2016 (paperback)
On the shores of a tranquil fjord in Northern Iceland, a man is brutally beaten to death on a bright summer’s night. As the 24-hour light of the arctic summer is transformed into darkness by an ash cloud from a recent volcanic eruption, a young reporter leaves Reykajvik to investigate on her own, unaware that an innocent person’s life hangs in the balance. Ari Thor Arason and his colleagues on the tiny police force in Siglufjordur struggle with an increasingly perplexing case, while their own serious personal problems push them to the limit. What secrets does the dead man harbour, and what is the young reporter hiding? As silent, unspoken horrors from the past threaten them all, and the darkness deepens, it is a race against time to find the killer before someone else dies…
Despite trying not to request too many new books, I really have fallen behind with my reading. So, this summer (or, rather, this cold and damp spring!) I’m making it my mission to catch up with some older reviews. Today, I’m taking a look at BLACKOUT by Ragnar Jonasson, the third book in the Dark Iceland series. I first read BLACKOUT back when it was published in 2018, so this was the perfect excuse to have a bit of a re-read before finalising my review. The first thing to note is that BLACKOUT, despite being the third instalment, is set between SNOWBLIND (book 1) and NIGHTBLIND (book 2).
As expected from the Dark Iceland series, the book is atmospheric, dark and tightly plotted. The prose is minimal and each sentence feels like it has a purpose. The story is told through several perspectives – Ari Thor, his colleague Hlynur and journalist Isrun. There are multiple threads to the story and as the story jumps from one character to the next, those threads gradually weave together to create a gripping tale of murder and intrigue.
The author swerves away from the typical violence that characterises Nordic Noir, instead opting for a more subtle tone. It has the darkness and atmosphere expected from a Scandinavian crime thriller, combined with an air of suspense and intrigue that puts me more in the mind of a classic ‘whodunit’.
The author’s use of location is clever. The Icelandic countryside always provides a secluded and claustrophobic setting, and Ragnar has added to this by setting the story at the time of the volcanic eruption in 2010. The volcanic ash provides a cloak of darkness and a hint of menace, despite the 24 hour daylight of an Icelandic summer.
Ragnar is one of my favourite authors and BLACKOUT did not disappoint. With its tight plotting, tense atmosphere and intriguing characters, it really is a most satisfying read.
I must also mention the translator, Quentin Bates, who has done such a fantastic job in translating BLACKOUT for the UK market. A good translation really does make all the difference!
Ragnar Jónasson was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, where he works as a writer and a lawyer and teaches copyright law at Reykjavik University. He has previously worked on radio and television, including as a TV news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, and, from the age of seventeen, has translated fourteen of Agatha Christie’s novels. He is an international Number One bestseller.