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Blackout: An Ari Thor Thriller

Review

Blackout: An Ari Thor Thriller

Ragnar Jonasson has rapidly made his way onto my list of must-read authors. His creation is Ari Thór, a taciturn, driven policeman who constitutes one-third of the law enforcement in Siglufjordur, a small town in northern Iceland with very limited access. Ari is sometimes difficult to like but is fascinating to observe.

The newly published BLACKOUT is the third of these books to be published in the United States (and a tip of the fedora to Quentin Bates for the translation that makes this possible), but is the second in the series, taking place after SNOWBLIND. Ari and both of his colleagues are experiencing difficulties. Ari’s love interest is no longer his love interest. Tomas, Ari’s superior, is dealing with his wife having upped sticks and moved to southern Iceland without him. Hlynur, the third man on the force, is having his own difficulties, which are rooted in the past and gradually play out as the story develops.

"Jonasson...balances BLACKOUT between characters and plot, allowing each to have equal driving time.... The book’s real draw is Iceland itself."

For the most part, BLACKOUT takes place over the course of a very long two days that follow the almost accidental discovery of a brutally murdered man. Elias, the victim, had been in the area as part of a crew working on a tunnel designed to effectuate easier access to and from Siglufjordur with the rest of Iceland. At first it seems almost improbable that anyone would want to kill Elias, who was known at least superficially as someone who kept his head down and did his work. Ari and a television news reporter from Reykajvik arrive at the truth by working independently. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to (almost) anyone, the murder of Elias puts another life --- an innocent one --- in terrible danger, with two people holding different sets of information necessary for a rescue, if such is coming.

Jonasson, who was already known in his native Iceland for translating 14 Agatha Christie novels from English to Icelandic, balances BLACKOUT between characters and plot, allowing each to have equal driving time. The basic whodunit concerning Elias’ murder is perplexing and puzzling. Jonasson gives the reader a bit more than he gives Ari, at least initially, but it really doesn’t help those who like to ferret out the solution. That’s fine. At least half of the attraction of a good mystery is getting tugged along to the end, a task that Jonasson performs in skillful fashion.

The book’s real draw is Iceland itself. As the story plays out, Iceland is in the midst of its 24-hour arctic summer, which, in turn, is being transformed into total darkness due to untimely (though not entirely unexpected) volcanic eruptions. The contrast of the weather and geology compares with the moods of the characters, all of whom are memorable.

And in case this novel is not enough, more is coming. RUPTURE, the third in the series, will be published in 2019, further closing the gap between SNOWBLIND and the fifth installment, NIGHTBLIND. Do yourself a solid and jump on now.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on September 14, 2018

Blackout: An Ari Thor Thriller
by Ragnar Jonasson

  • Publication Date: August 28, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250171059
  • ISBN-13: 9781250171054