Blackout – Ragnar Jónasson

Blackout | Ragnar Jonasson

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 Reykjavík 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…

Ari Thór is back in this, the third installment in Ragnar Jónasson’s superb Dark Iceland series. The events of Blackout take place following the volcanic eruptions of 2010 where Eyjafjallajökull managed to close down most of Europe’s airspace, and interestingly, between the events of the first book, Snowblind, and the second, Nightblind.

Ragnar presents us with a number of mysteries here – the dead man being investigated by Ari Thór and his colleagues, the strange emails that are causing Hlynur Ísaksson such distress and the investigation of a young reporter from Reykjavik. Blackout has more depth and complexity than the previous two books, with the myriad of threads and characters weaving together as the book progresses, all told in Ragnar’s wonderfully sparse style. There are a *lot* of threads to keep up with in this one!

Regular readers of this blog (hi!) will know how much I loved Snowblind and Nightblind, and Ragnar has delivered another superbly convoluted mystery.

Nordic Noir, eat your heart out. Icelandic Noir is where it’s at.

Many thanks, as always, to Karen from Orenda Books for the review copy. Opinions are, of course, my own.

Thin Ice, by Quentin Bates

Thin Ice

Today I’m delighted to welcome Quentin Bates (@graskeggur to the blog. Quentin was best known to me as the translator for Ragnar Jonasson’s excellent Dark Iceland books, Snowblind and Nightblind. I had no idea that he was (and indeed is) an accomplished author himself, though am not surprised. Whilst Thin Ice is part of an ongoing series, it can easily be read as a standalone book in its own right.

Snowed in with a couple of psychopaths for the winter…
When two small-time crooks rob Reykjavik’s premier drugs dealer, hoping for a quick escape to the sun, their plans start to unravel after their getaway driver fails to show. Tensions mount between the pair and the two women they have grabbed as hostages when they find themselves holed upcountry in an isolated hotel that has been mothballed for the season.
Back in the capital, Gunnhildur, Eiríkur and Helgi find themselves at a dead end investigating what appear to be the unrelated disappearance of a mother, her daughter and their car during a day’s shopping, and the death of a thief in a house fire.
Gunna and her team are faced with a set of riddles but as more people are quizzed it begins to emerge that all these unrelated incidents are in fact linked. And at the same time, two increasingly desperate lowlifes have no choice but to make some big decisions on how to get rid of their accidental hostages…

Thin Ice has a splendidly chilly premise – two crooks pull off a robbery only to find that their getaway plans are scuppered. They hijack a car and take a mother and daughter hostage, ending up in a hotel that’s been closed for the winter, deep in the Icelandic countryside. Then the snow starts falling…

Tensions rise between captors and captives and Officer Gunna and her team try to track down the missing women whilst the wonderfully-named Alli the Cornershop and his underworld cronies hunt for the crooks who stole their money.

Here’s a short excerpt from the start of the story. I loved the characters of Magni and Össur, both unique in their own special ways.

The hard guy in the leather jacket was big, with bulky shoulders and knotted forearms, and his jaw jutted forward as if asking to be punched.
So Magni obliged, swatting the tough guy aside with an effortless backhander. He never could resist an invitation; the big man stum- bled back, emitting a high-pitched keening sound as he hit the wall, his dinnerplate hands held to his face as blood seeped through his fingers.
Magni felt no animosity towards the meathead who had been stu- pid enough to be in the wrong place at the right time. Or was that the wrong time, he wondered? Whatever, the guy was spitting teeth into his cupped hands and whimpering, so he only needed a casual eye to be kept on him. Nothing to worry about, Magni decided with satisfaction. At any rate, the ugly black pistol in Össur’s nervous hand was far more persuasive than mere muscles. The old man’s face went pale, paler than it normally was, and Alli the Cornershop didn’t look like a man who spent much time in the sun. He looked sick as he handed over a carrier bag that Össur glanced into before tucking it under one arm.
‘You must know you don’t have a chance in hell of getting away with this,’ Alli snarled. ‘I’ll have the pair of you bastards brought back here trussed up in barbed wire.’
‘Good luck, grandpa.’

Thin Ice is great – the secluded, wintry hideout of Magni and Össur starts to become more claustrophobic as the story progresses. Tensions flare and burn slowly, expectations growing for something to kick off. And Össur has a gun…

Perfect for fans of Icelandic Noir and Ragnar Jonasson. I’m going to have to go back and catch up on the back story of officer Gunna!

Many thanks to Linda at Constable for the review copy. Thin Ice is out now.

As ever, the opinions are entirely my own. The blog tour continues tomorrow with Victoria from Off The Shelf Books

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