The first book in Ragnar Jónasson’s Dark Iceland series, Snowblind, introduced rookie policeman Ari Thor. Set during Iceland’s financial crisis, Ari, a Reykjavik resident and former theology student, takes a job in far-way Siglufjördur. This isn’t a dream job by any means, and Ari’s girlfriend Kristin, is upset with Ari for taking the position. It means long separations and Ari’s decision will impact her career as a doctor, so there’s relationship turbulence ahead. The second book in the series, Nightblind, takes place five years after Snowblind. Ari and Kristin are now living together and they have a child, but their relationship problems are far from solved, and the murder of a local policeman strains their relationship even further.
The third novel in the series, Blackout, takes place between the first two published books. Ari is in Siglufjördur and he and Kristin, who is working as a doctor in Reykjavik, no longer have a relationship–although they have sporadic contact. The novel is set during a volcanic interruption, and a tourist discovers a corpse of a murdered man.
Ari isn’t quite as central to this novel. He’s there, of course, and he has regrets about his lost relationship with Kristin. There’s an ambitious reporter, Ísrún, who hears about the discovery of a body and runs with the story. Her boss is looking for an excuse to get rid of her, so the story may just be the ticket she needs to help her flailing career.
The investigation into the man’s death follows two tracks: Ísrún’s hunt for the story and the police investigation. For this reader, Blackout is not as strong as the other two entries in the series. It’s looser and not as tightly written. Whereas the other two novels emphasized the bleakness and isolation of winter in Siglufjördur, this novel moves to another feature of Icelandic weather: the volcano. As with all crime series novels, we get the current crime woven with details of our characters’ lives, and depending on the book/series, one aspect is usually more interesting than another. It didn’t help the momentum factor that this novel takes place between the other two books, as the reader already knows where Ari and Kristin’s relationship is heading.
Translated by Quentin Bates.