“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 Reykjavik 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 s a race against time to find the killer before someone else dies…”
It is my great pleasure to welcome you to my stop on the Blackout blog tour. Blackout is the third book in the Dark Iceland series written by Ragnar Jónasson and translated by fellow crime writer, Quentin Bates. I have to confess, despite reading rave reviews of the first two books, I haven’t had a chance to read them yet. So this stunning book was my first introduction to Ari Thór Arason and the writing of Ragnar Jónasson.
A body is discovered by an American tourist, it’s badly beaten and barely recognisable. Ari Thór Arason and colleagues are drafted in as part of the investigation. After all, the deceased was a local man. Elsewhere a dynamic young news reporter has decided to investigate the murder on her own. Doors seem to open more easily for Ísrún; is everyone really that hungry for their 15 minutes of fame? But Ísrún has her own secrets. And why did the dead man travel to Asia days before his sudden violent death…?
This is such an atmospheric novel, jammed full of mystery and intrigue. It was my first encounter with Ari Thór Arason but it won’t be my last. Once I had settled on my own unique pronunciation of Icelandic names and places (nothing like what it should have been, I’m quite sure!) I was well away. I devoured this book taking only two days to read it (that’s fast for me!). I found the descriptions of the ash cloud and how it affected Reykjavik to be quite claustrophobic, which goes to show how superb the writing is in being able to do that.
The doomed relationship of Ari Thór and Kristín was a captivating sub-plot which I enjoyed. I’m not normally one for romance but the spectacular way in which Ari Thór had managed to destroy the relationship made the couple appeal to me for some reason. The darker side of me hopes there are more bumps along the road for them, rather than a happily ever after storyline.
I loved the intricacy of the story. Events seemed at times to have no connection to other goings on, only for you to realise as you progress through the book that it’s all intrinsically linked. There were lots of ‘ah, that’s why…’ moments for me.
Would I recommend this book? I would as it’s a brilliant read with heaps of good old fashioned mystery with a dark and dangerous Icelandic twist. I look forward to reading more from Ragnar Jónasson. (And please don’t ask to hear my Icelandic pronunciation, I’ll just embarrass myself!)
Four out of five stars.
Many thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for providing me with a copy of Blackout in exchange for an honest review.
Blackout by Ragnar Jónasson (trans. by Quentin Bates) was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 15th July 2016 and is available in paperback, eBook and audiobook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Orenda Books |
Icelandic crime writer Ragnar Jónasson was born in Reykjavik in 1976, and currently works as a lawyer, while teaching copyright law at the Reykjavik University Law School. In the past, he’s worked in TV and radio, including as a news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. Before embarking on a writing career, Ragnar translated 14 Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic, and has had several short stories published in German, English and Icelandic literary magazines. Ragnar set up the first overseas chapter of the CWA (Crime Writers’ Association) in Reykjavik, and is co-founder of the international crime-writing festival Iceland Noir, selected by the Guardian as one of the ‘best crime-writing festivals around the world’. He lives in Reykjavik with his wife and two daughters. Connect with Ragnar Jónasson on Twitter @ragnarjo.
Quentin Bates dates back to the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis and was brought up in the south of England. In the year that Margaret Thatcher became Britain’s Prime Minister, he was offered the opportunity to spend a gap year working in Iceland and jumped at the chance of escape.
The gap year turned into a gap decade, during which he worked as a netmaker, factory hand and trawlerman, started a family and generally went native.
‘Back in England, I worked as a truck driver, teacher, fisherman and as a freelance journalist writing about nautical stuff, while gradually spending less time at sea. I’ve always been a big reader, and gradually writing started to take over.’
Seagoing was followed by many years as a journalist for an obscure nautical trade magazine, a dream job for anyone who gets a kick out of visiting industrial estates and obscure harbours miles from anywhere. From there it was a series of sidestep into fiction. Connect with Quentin Bates on Twitter @graskeggur.