Blackout – Ragnar Jonasson – Audible Book Review by Pat V.
Iceland seems to be flavour of the month with the extraordinary success of its football team in the Euros, the hugely popular crime series “Trapped” shown on BBC4 and last year’s prize winning movie “Rams”, by director Grimur Hakonarson. For a small nation, (it has a population of little more than 300,000), it has also produced a large number of excellent crime writers. Authors like Arnaldur Indridason and Yrsa Siguroardóttir have become international best-sellers and now Ragnar Jonasson is joining their ranks.
His latest novel, Blackout, the third in a series he calls Dark Iceland, like the other two, Snowblind and Nightblind, is set in and around Siglufjörður, an idyllically quiet fishing village in Northern Iceland, where no one locks their doors – accessible only via a small mountain tunnel. Set in 2010, when the volcanic ash cloud from the eruption of Eyjafjallajökul caused disruption to European air space and transformed the 24-hour light of the Arctic summer into perpetual twilight, the story begins when the badly disfigured body of a man is found.
In the tiny police station in Siglufjörður a new recruit, Ari Thór Arason, and his colleague, Inspector Tomas, begin to investigate the murder. At the same time a young female reporter, Isrun, leaves Reykjavik hoping to impress her editor with the sensational background story to the events. Their paths eventually cross after parallel investigations, and, sharing their information, they realise that they are caught in a race against time before someone else dies.
Jonasson’s story does not feature dramatic car chases or Sherlock Holmes type deductions. His characters are ordinary, flawed people but they are fully fleshed and three-dimensional. We learn of their backgrounds, their hopes, their mistakes. While Blackout is primarily a crime novel, Jonasson’s book also captures the claustrophobic atmosphere of this isolated place and presents us with a cast of characters we believe in and care about. It is an engaging, intelligent book and goes far towards justifying Jonasson’s reputation as heir apparent to the crown of Nordic crime writing.
Leighton Pugh’s reading is exceptional – beautifully modulated with an intuitive feel for the rhythms of language. There is nothing staid or mechanical in his performance – he breathes life into the book and it is hard to believe that a single person can take such a large cast of characters and give each a distinctive voice. He has read more than 50 books for Audible and it is easy to see why he is one of their favourite readers.
The audiobook is available from audible.co.uk and lasts 6h47mins