Review: “Blackout” (Dark Iceland #3) by Ragnar Jonasson

How do you like Iceland?

Blackout, Chapter 1, page 1

Author: Ragnar Jónasson
Publication Date: June 30th 2016
Publisher: Orenda Books
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Format: Hardcover
Find it on: Amazon, Goodreads

Synopsis

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 Thór Arason and his colleagues on the tiny police force in Siglufjörður 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’s a race against time to find the killer before someone else dies …

Dark, terrifying and complex, Blackout is an exceptional, atmospheric thriller from one of Iceland’s finest crime writers.

From Goodreads

Review

This third Ari Thór book steps back in time, taking place directly after the events of book one. In contrast to the prior two books we hit action right away as a man’s body is discovered within the first three pages. What should otherwise be a bright and peaceful summer is smothered by heavy ash from a nearby volcanic eruption, casting a blanket over the town. Readers quickly learn the victim’s shady past has much to be uncovered and the investigation mounts in complexity. As Ari drives for answers, determined journalist Isrún is introduced and joins the chase. Previously working in the psychology/health care sector, she is now completely devoted to her new role and the powerful responsibility of uncovering the truth. At work she’s strong willed. Isrún is resolved to be unhindered by her resentful manager’s efforts to keep her under his thumb. She latches on to the opportunity to chase this story down, but it’s unclear whether her efforts will assist Ari or bring further misfortune on the case.

In this story we also get more background on Hlynur – the third detective working alongside Ari and Tómas at the station. His lacklustre personality and stoic persona belie a haunting, regretful past, and you can’t help but feel sorry to see him struggling to cope with the weight of it all on his own. Hlynur is a minor character but taking part in his journey has real impact.

On whole this book felt heavier then the previous ones somehow, despite the domestic violence element of book two. It started out enjoyable as usual but between Hlynur’s situation and the woman involved in the case the story’s weight increased as I read on, making it take some effort to finish. I’ll still be continuing on in the series with hopes that the mood lightens a bit (as far as crime mysteries go), and because I do love Ragnar’s writing. His strategic decision to set book two five years after book one and place intermediate books between means we can take heart in knowing where Ari and others end up. At this point we’re just navigating the tumultuous events that eventually wind there.

I’d highly recommend this book (as I do all his work) with a caveat that we’re getting darker in this series before we start to come out of it. Consider reading on a sunny day, or with some music/tv in the background ❄

TW: rape, human trafficking, suicide, abuse

Cover background photo by Tim Navis on Unsplash

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