Blackout – Ragnar Jonasson

Despite the puff, this is run of the mill nordic noir, with not that much to raise it above the ordinary. It’s alright, but nothing outstanding.

The crime at the center of the novel is the murder by vicious assault of one man, a team leader of a crew working on a civil engineering project in remote Iceland. Ari Thór Arason, the lead policeman, is struggling with his personal life as well as the challenge of this case. Meantime, there’s a reporter snooping about, and another potential victim just around the corner.

It has its moments, but is largely pedestrian.

For dedicated readers only.

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Rupture – Ragnar Jonasson

Another crime novel featuring Ari Thor Arason and the fishing village of Siglufjordour, in Northern Iceland. Unfortunately, I found this to be as dull as ditchwater compared to the others. Maybe my tastes are becoming jaded, but while there was a decent historical mystery, and a contemporary crime narrative too, neither excited me.

The cold case goes back to 1955 with two young couples moving to the very isolated Hedinsfjörður. One of their number dies in strange circumstances, but there is no apparent solution to the mystery of what exactly happened.

Meanwhile, there’s a hit and run and a kidnapped baby for the police to deal with. How these cases become connected leads to a potentially stunning conclusion. The potential is not realized.

It was a real slog to finish the book, hoping for an upturn in the excitement or tension. It never came. I could not recommend this. I hope the author returns to form with the next one.

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Nightblind – Ragnar Jonasson

This is the second in the Icelandic crime series featuring Ari Thor Arason, former resident of Reykjavik, now a policeman in Siglufjordour, a fishing village in Northern Iceland. It takes place several years after Snowblind (my review is here), with Arason now a father, and well established in the community.

A shocking shooting sets the scene aflame, with interest from afar, and Arason’s former boss sent in to help deal with the inevitable crisis. The tale is interwoven with diary extracts from a patient in a mental asylum, and the plot is spiced up with some local political chicanery.

Slowly, but assuredly, the plot and mystery are unraveled, with the tension just right. It may at time seem somewhat slow, but I would prefer to describe it as steady. This book is like a fine whisky – to be appreciated with small sips, and not knocked back in a shot glass.

The characterization is solid, the backdrop engrossing – and better than the first novel – and the whole thing is a well crafted package, ably assisted by an excellent translation.

Highly recommended.

(The third in the series, Blackout, is set between Snowblind and Nightblind. Some may prefer to read the books in chronological order, but I will not offer a view till I have read the third.)

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Snowblind – Ragnar Jonasson

Set in Siglufjordour, a fishing village in Northern Iceland, this crime novel (the first of a series) features freshly minted policeman Ari Thor Arason, as he moves away from the big city and settles into the rhythm and pattern of village life.

First, he has to deal with the discovery of an unconscious woman, bleeding and unconscious. Then a local notable is found dead at the bottom a flight of stairs in the local theater. As the newcomer, he has to struggle against the tide a bit, to gain acceptance, the handicap being that often his has to ask difficult questions to try and get to the bottom of these incidents.

The novel features a lot of character portraits that tell the reader what is going on. So, there’s little analysis to do. It’s the opposite of the writing advice: show, don’t tell. But, despite this, the novel seems to work well. The author does a good job – occasionally overdoing things – of portraying the small town world of that distant village, and the claustrophobia thrown up by the avalanche closing down the routes in and out of the place.

Overall, this is a book with a different feel; sort of an Agatha Christie village mystery set in rural Iceland. Life goes on in a sedate fashion, and in the background there is the darkness. It’s gently told, well written, and well crafted. The characterization is interesting and enthralling for more than just Ari Thor. The plot is OK, and a bit more open ended than you might expect.

Worth checking out.

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