REVIEW: Blackout by Ragnar Jonasson (Dark Iceland #3)

Series: Dark Iceland (Ari Thor)

Book Number: 3

Read this book for: realistic police procedure, contemporary mystery, minimalist writing, traditional whodunnit, Scandanavian/Nordic Noir, journalist investigator

Quick Review: Slightly different from the rest of the series, given that Ari Thor doesn’t do all the investigating, but still a beautifully written and compelling addition to a must-read series. If you’ve read the rest of the Dark Iceland series, pick this one up!

***

A man is found near a remote and unoccupied home, brutally and gruesomely killed during the 24-hour light of the Arctic summer. Ari Thor Arason is assigned to help the lead investigators. He throws himself into it, despite being only peripherally connected to the case, partly to distract himself from his problems with his girlfriend. Meanwhile, a journalist who is dealing with her own demons escapes the volcanic ash cloud that hangs over Reykjavik to drive north and begin her own investigation. As they unwind the less-than-legal threads of the victim’s life, neither of them realizes another innocent life hangs in the balance…

BLACKOUT is the third book to be published in the Dark Iceland series by Ragnar Jonasson, which follows young police officer Ari Thor Arason as he moves and gets used to life in small-town northern Iceland. Although it is the third novel released in English, chronologically, it takes place after the first novel, SNOWBLIND, but prior to the second novel, NIGHTBLIND. While not completely necessary, it would be helpful to at least read SNOWBLIND prior to BLACKOUT, as many of the character relationships and backstories are explained there, and it adds an additional layer to the story.

However, this novel does depart slightly from the narrative in the prior two releases, which largely follows Ari Thor’s investigation, interspersed with flashbacks. BLACKOUT broadens the narrative to follow the simultaneous investigation of journalist Isrun, plus opens the point of view to several other characters who have unique insight in the situation. Plus, this time, the flashbacks – a device that Jonasson has used to great effect in the other novels – come from a couple of different individuals.

Although this broadening of the number of involved characters results in this novel losing a bit of the tight, focused intensity of the previous books, it does allow Jonasson to further explore the characters. As I have said in past reviews about this series, the characters are absolutely one of the strongest parts of these stories. Not only are they interesting and flawed, but they are capable of a degree of self-awareness and self-reflection that you don’t often see. For example, Ari Thor is very conscious of how he comes across or is attempting to portray himself during interviews. Isrun’s journey of discovery – and the anxiety revealed in her last flashback – is incredibly real and poignant.

Jonasson does such an incredible job with these characters and their personal stories that it almost does not do BLACKOUT justice to call it “just” a thriller. But despite the literary elements, the construction of the story – not particularly complicated, but with difficult-to-discern pieces – gives you a real sense of need-to-know, whodunnit suspense.

If you have not yet started on the Dark Iceland series, pick up SNOWBLIND, and be sure to also pick up this newest edition to the series! BLACKOUT will grip you.

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