23rd April 2017
Gallows Drop by Mari Hannah, crime thriller set in Northumberland (“a real hanging suspense”) ...
Blackout by Ragnar Jónasson (translated by Quentin Bates) – noir thriller set in Iceland.
Blackout is the third book (the second chronologically…) in the Dark Iceland series featuring detectives Ari Thór Arason and his boss, Tómas. It follows on from Snowblind and precedes Nightblind. As the other two, it is set largely in Siglufjörõur – a small community in the north of Iceland. I said in my review of Nightblind that it was rather more Agatha Christie than noir. Blackout doesn’t lose the Christie-esque flavour, but it is certainly a lot darker. It is probably the best read of the three to date.
Elías Freysson, who lived in Siglufjörõur and works on the new tunnel linking the town to the south of Iceland, is brutally murdered in Skagafjörõur, a village an hour or so away. He was working on converting an old house for its new owner, Ríkhardur Lindgren. Ríkhardur was a Reykjavik doctor struck off a few years previously for drinking while on duty and allowing a patient to die. Was Elías the intended victim, or was it Ríkhardur?
Many strands and many timelines are interwoven in the book. There is Isrun, a TV journalist who comes north to Siglufjörõur from Reykjavik. She clearly has a reason for wanting to be involved in the case… There is Kristin, Ari Thór’s on / off (mainly off) girl friend who has moved to work in the hospital at nearby Akureyri – which is also the home of the regional police headquarters. There are stories of child abuse and violence in the past, and of drugs and people trafficking in the present. The stories can seem a bit disconnected, but you have to have faith that all will be revealed in the exciting denouement – which it absolutely is (and in some style). One of Ragnar’s great talents is bringing together disparate strands into a convincing and thrilling finale.
Iceland, as ever with Ragnar’s books, comes through loud and clear. From the volcano dust infested Reykjavik in the south, to the open skies of the north.
Blackout is an extremely welcome addition to the successful Dark Iceland series. An excellent and exciting read.
Tony for the TripFiction team