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Wednesday, 23 November 2016

‘Blackout’ by Ragnar Jonasson

Translated by Quentin Bates
Published by Orenda Books,
30 August 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-910633-46-5 (PBO)

It is present day Iceland and an American tourist by the name of Even Fein finds a dead body near a summer house being constructed not far from Skagafjorour Northern Iceland.

When policeman Ari Thor gets to work that day his colleague Tomas tells him of the murder. It is a man called Elias Freyson a building contractor working on a new tunnel in the area and also building the summer house for a Rikhardur Lindgren, who has a murky past as a drunken doctor.

The more enquiries they make the more they find that Elias was up to no good. Can he have upset someone in his dodgy dealings or was it a case of mistaken identity and Rikhardur had actually been the intended target?
At the same police station Hlymer is not himself, he has been receiving threatening emails seemingly from someone he used to bully at school and whom he knows to have died. This affects his work as he tries to identify whoever is sending them.

Meanwhile Isrun a young television reporter suspects a good story when she hears of the murder and travels up from Reykjavik, partly to get away from the awful effects of the recent eruption of a volcano which has left a thick cloud of ash over the city transforming it into permanent darkness. She makes her own enquiries and uncovers some surprising facts unknown to the police, leading to what she hopes is the scoop of the year.

Running through the book is also the story of the personal problems of each of the police officers and Isrun and makes for extra tension throughout, leading to sometimes tragic developments. The police eventually get a confession and it is from a completely unexpected direction.

This was a good book and well written. I had a struggle with the many unfamiliar Icelandic names of people and places but once I got around that I enjoyed it very much. It is full of twists and turns and many surprising developments. Also running throughout the story is the threat of the ash cloud drifting further north to Skagafjorour and Siglufjorour where all the action takes place, and it could even trigger the eruption of another volcano closer to the towns. It all adds to the tension, very atmospheric. Most enjoyable and recommended.
Reviewer: Tricia Chappell

Ragnar Jonasson was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1976 and works as 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. Before becoming a writer, Ragnar translated 14 Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic, and has had short stories published in international literary magazines. Ragnar is a member of the UK Crime Writers' Association (CWA) and recently set up the first overseas chapter of the CWA, in Reykjavik. He is also the co-founder of the Reykjavik international crime writing festival Iceland Noir (, which was selected by the Guardian as one of the 'best crime-writing festivals around the world'. Ragnar has appeared on panels at festivals worldwide, and he lives in Reykjavik with his wife and daughter.

Quentin Bates  is an English novelist of mystery/crime fiction novels. Quentin found himself working in Iceland for a year, which turned into a decade, and has used some of that experience as well as a university writing course to develop his Gunnhildur series. Although he is British, Quentin is more in line with Scandinavian crime fiction authors. Quentin is also a full-time journalist and feature writer for an obscure nautical trade magazine.

Tricia Chappell. I have a great love of books and reading, especially crime and thrillers. I play the occasional game of golf  (when I am not reading). My great love is cruising especially to far flung places, when there are long days at sea for plenty more reading! I am really enjoying reviewing books and have found lots of great new authors.

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