Our Jolabokafloð countdown continues with the penultimate day of Ragnar week and the penultimate Ari Thór book 🥺. I have loved this series and I have loved taking a look back at all my reviews, reminding myself what a joy these books were to read. If I haven’t convinced you to pick them up yet, I don’t think I ever will. If I have, then check out Jen Med’s Book Reviews on Twitter this Sunday where we have a special Jolabokafloð giveaway planned. Until then, check out my review of Whiteout below. First though, here’s what the book is all about:
About the Book
Two days before Christmas, a young woman is found dead beneath the cliffs of the deserted village of Kálfshamarvík.
Did she jump, or did something more sinister take place beneath the lighthouse and the abandoned old house on the remote rocky outcrop?
With winter closing in and the snow falling relentlessly, Ari Thór Arason discovers that the victim’s mother and young sister also lost their lives in this same spot, twenty-five years earlier.
As the dark history and its secrets of the village are unveiled, and the death toll begins to rise, the Siglufjordur detectives must race against the clock to find the killer, before another tragedy takes place.
Dark, chilling and complex, Whiteout is a haunting, atmospheric and stunningly plotted thriller from one of Iceland’s bestselling crime writers.
This was such a hard review to write. At the time I thought this was the end (it nearly was but not quite it seems). And what can I say that hasn’t already been said (including by me)? If you have not yet picked up any of the Dark Iceland books then I just have to say that you are truly missing out on what has been a brilliant series. So very different from anything I had read before, this series was my first introduction to Icelandic fiction, but since I started reading, or in my case listening, I have not looked back.
Contacted by his former inspector, Tomas, for help with a relatively local case, Ari Thór welcomes the opportunity to get away from his own station for a while. Only one problem – his partner, Kristin, is pregnant, and with Christmas fast approaching they had been looking forward to spending the festive season together. The case is intriguing; a young woman who has fallen to her death in the exact same place that her sister and mother lost their lives. While the case may be a simple suicide, Tomas isn’t entirely convinced, and it is down to Tomas and Ari Thór to find the truth, whatever that may be. Faced with harsh conditions and relative isolation, what could possibly have caused three people to lose their lives?
The beautiful thing about these books is the way in which Ragnar Jónasson has skilfully managed to evoke the sense of setting and atmosphere within his writing. In a part of the country set with almost perpetual darkness and the prospect of truly harsh conditions, he has found the perfect backdrop for a story which perpetuates a kind of eeriness and a sense of sadness which is passes from one person to the next. There are no truly happy characters in this story; each has their own tale to tell, their own secrets about which they keep their own counsel. It makes it hard, impossible almost, to trust anyone, and heightens the awareness of a dark spirit and an inherent sadness within the house. From the very moment Ásta returns to her childhood home, you can feel the darkness descend upon the house; a kind of oppression which will force long-buried secrets to the surface with the most tragic of consequences.
Don’t come to this series expecting fast paced action and high-speed chases. True to the setting and the nature of the people within the story, you will get none of that here. What you will get is a natural unravelling of the story until the facts present themselves. A kind of old fashioned detective story in which intuition and investigation are as important, if not more so, that forensic examination. Not that forensics don’t play a key part – they do. But they are hours away from Reykjavik and only days away from Christmas. Whatever the evidence they uncover, it will be hard to secure the scientific proof in time to prevent further tragedies taking place.
Ari Thór isn’t your typical action hero either. Somewhat brooding, occasionally moody if truth be told, he is still a character who holds your attention and who I could not help but love. He has his own secrets, ones he is keeping from Kristin and ones which the imminent birth of his first child is forcing him to confront. In Ásta, he sees much of himself. Alarmed by the similiarities in their circumstances he is compelled to find the truth and it is this determination which will ultimately lead them to the reasons behind her death. But is it suicide, or something far more sinister? To be fair, there are themes touched upon, not in a necessarily overstated way mind, that will make you wince and feel sympathetic to the child Ásta once was. Lord knows her family situation is truly tragic and it would be a hard-hearted person who does not feel at least a little compassion.
I really do love this series – the sense of place, of atmosphere, of tradition – which emanates from each and every page. It is full of situations you can recognise and characters you can both empathise with and also detest. But more than that it is simply that there is a beautiful, sometimes almost lyrical and even mystical quality to the prose, so much so that it draws you in and holds you captive until you turn the very last page. Highly recommended. All of them.
About the Author
Icelandic crime writer Ragnar Jónasson was born in Reykjavík, and currently works as a lawyer, while teacher copyright law at the Reykjavík University Law School. In the past, he’s worked in TV and radio, including as a news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. Before embarking on a writing career, Ragnar translated fourteen Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic, and has had several short stories published in German, English and Icelandic literary magazines. Ragnar set up the first overseas chapter of the CWA (Crime Writers’ Association) in Reykjavík, and is co-founder of the International crime-writing festival Iceland Noir. Ragnar’s debut thriller, Snowblind became an almost instant bestseller when it was published in June 2015n with Nightblind (winner of the Dead Good Reads Most Captivating Crime in Translation Award) and then Blackout, Rupture and Whiteout following soon after. To date, Ragnar Jónasson has written five novels in the Dark Iceland series, which has been optioned for TV by On the Corner. He lives in Reykjavík with his wife and two daughters.
Books by Ragnar Jónasson