Book Titles: Blackout/Nightblind
Author: Ragnar Jonasson
Translator: Quentin Bates
REVIEWED BY: CHELSEA
Series: Dark Iceland #2 & #3
Genres: Crime Fiction, Nordic Noir
*Quick note-on Goodreads, the order is stated as reading Nightblind followed by Blackout. I would HIGHLY recommend not doing this, but instead starting with Blackout and read Nightblind next, as this saves you from reading spoilers that otherwise would come in natural order. Someone else recommended I do this and I can’t thank you enough Abby! So, just for clarity, I recommend reading the English versions in the following order: Snowblind (#1), Blackout (read as #2), Nightblind (read as #3), followed by Rupture (#4). Hopefully this helps and would love to hear feedback from those who have read in either order!
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…
While I have yet to read Rupture, Blackout is by far my favorite in the series that I have read to date. Yes, each installment in the series features that dark, oppressing nature, but this one had something even more sinister lying between it’s pages. Even though these books are deeply atmospheric and slow burning in pace, I found I couldn’t absorb the information fast enough as I was dying to get to the big reveal in the end. Ragnar has a way with taking a seemingly normal story and twisting it into the unreal; these books are completely in the realm of the natural, but the setting is so rich that it gives the books an otherworldly feature. I had none of this book figured out and was surprised by every last turn; I couldn’t give this book anything less than 5 stars in good conscience. Those who are fans of the series will be blown away by what the author has crafted in this entry and by where he is taking the characters we have grown attached to.
Siglufjörður: an idyllically quiet fishing village on the northernmost tip of Iceland, accessible only via a small mountain tunnel. Ari Thór Arason: a local policeman, whose tumultuous past and uneasy relationships with the villagers continue to haunt him. The peace of this close-knit community is shattered by the murder of a policeman – shot at point-blank range in the dead of night in a deserted house. With a killer on the loose and the dark arctic winter closing in, it falls to Ari Thór to piece together a puzzle that involves tangled local politics, a compromised new mayor, and a psychiatric ward in Reykjavik, where someone is being held against their will. Then a mysterious young woman moves to the area, on the run from something she dare not reveal, and it becomes all too clear that tragic events from the past are weaving a sinister spell that may threaten them all.
Nightblind is a tricky book to review; if you chose to read this after Blackout then none of the spoilers ruined any plot twists and you are continuing in somewhat of a chronological order. This was the shortest book in the series so far; at only 206 pages I can’t give away much in terms of plot, but once again Jonasson has reeled us in and grabbed us from the very first chapter. I was pleased to learn of how the personal lives of our main characters had developed, and once again found myself intrigued by the twisty story. There’s always a grabbing reveal near the end and this one was as breathtaking as the first two. I found myself especially intrigued by the journal entries of the psych ward patient and thought they were a profound touch to add an extra layer of eery atmosphere to the story. It seems the more I read this series the faster I have to pick up the next book to continue on; I highly recommend the Dark Iceland books to fans of vivd nordic noir. I gave this one a 4 star rating on Goodreads and am excited to continue on!
*Many thanks to Karen at Orenda Books for providing my copies; it always feels like she’s doing me a favor by allowing me to review these books!
Ragnar was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, where he works as a writer and a lawyer. He also teaches copyright law at Reykjavik University and has previously worked on radio and television, including as a TV-news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. He is also the co-founder of the Reykjavik international crime writing festival Iceland Noir. From the age of 17, Ragnar translated 14 Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic. Ragnar has also had short stories published internationally, including in the distinguished Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in the US, the first stories by an Icelandic author in that magazine. He has appeared on festival panels worldwide, and lives in Reykjavik.