A Year of Orenda – Winterkill by Ragnar Jonasson trns David Warriner

Today is a bittersweet day. Not only is it the final day in our Ragnar week, but it is also the very last ever Ari Thór novel and the last time I get to demonstrate how I can spell Siglufjörður without thinking about it. Took me ages to work out how to get all those special characters in place … Now don’t forget to check out Jen Med’s Book Reviews on Twitter tomorrow as we’ll be giving away some very special books in time for Jolabokafloð.

It’s my great pleasure to share my thoughts on Winterkill as part of the tour and I want to say a very special thank you to Orenda Books for sending the advance copy for review and to Anne Cater for inviting me to join the tour. The Dark Iceland series was my first ever taste of Icelandic Noir, some of the very first Orenda books I ever reviewed, and the books (and reviews) that led me to being offered so many amazing titles to read. I will always be grateful to Karen Sullivan and Ragnar Jonasson for giving me that! Here’s what the book is all about:

Source: Advance Review Copy

About the Book

When the body of a nineteen-year-old girl is found on the main street of Siglufjörður, Police Inspector Ari Thór battles a violent Icelandic storm in an increasingly dangerous hunt for her killer … The chilling, claustrophobic finale to the international bestselling Dark Iceland series.

Easter weekend is approaching, and snow is gently falling in Siglufjörður, the northernmost town in Iceland, as crowds of tourists arrive to visit the majestic ski slopes.

Ari Thór Arason is now a police inspector, but he’s separated from his girlfriend, who lives in Sweden with their three-year-old son. A family reunion is planned for the holiday, but a violent blizzard is threatening and there is an unsettling chill in the air.

Three days before Easter, a nineteen-year-old local girl falls to her death from the balcony of a house on the main street. A perplexing entry in her diary suggests that this may not be an accident, and when an old man in a local nursing home writes ‘She was murdered’ again and again on the wall of his room, there is every suggestion that something more sinister lies at the heart of her death….

As the extreme weather closes in, cutting the power and access to Siglufjörður, Ari Thór must piece together the puzzle to reveal a horrible truth … one that will leave no one unscathed.

Chilling, claustrophobic and disturbing, Winterkill marks the startling conclusion to the million-copy bestselling Dark Iceland series and cements Ragnar Jónasson as one of the most exciting authors in crime fiction.

My Thoughts

There is something comforting about being back in Siglufjörður and back in the world of Ari Thór Arason. Even though every time we head back something has changed, even if only subtly so, I’m still happy heading north through the snow and the ice and spending time in that remote Northern Iceland village. Although, it has to be said, it feels perhaps a little less remote these days, a new road making the village more accessible to tourists and icelanders alike, and making it a little more crowded than Ari Thór thinks it really needs to be. Plus, there has been some major upheaval in his personal life leaving him once again alone, but no longer deemed quite the newby.

It’s a perplexing case that Ari Thór is faced with – the body of a teenage girl found in the middle of the night, beneath the balcony of an apartment block that she has no connection to. Not only that, but the owner of the flat is down in Reykjavik, so there is no obvious reason as to how she would have gained access to the apartment in the first place. With a grieving family pushing him for answers, and some cryptic evidence found on the girl’s phone, is this. simply a case of suicide or something more sinister. With Ari Thór distracted by matters of a personal nature and the reappearance of a face from the past, this is a perfect blend of mystery, suspense and unique characters that has made this series a joy to read.

What I really love about the books is that way in which Ragnar Jonasson manages to capture every aspect of the landscape, portraying it to the reader with a kind of love and respect. Through Ari Thór’s observations as a not-quite-outsider looking in, we are able to get a ral feeling of the subtle changes that have happened in town since our last visit – the way in which it has become busier, those minor irritations when his favourite cinnamon buns have run out and the things he took for granted are in short supply with the increased footfall caused by the tourist trade. To be honest, he really kind of captured my own mood when my relative quiet of the early morning lockdown walk was disturbed by the gradual re-emergence of people into the wide world. I really could empathise with Ari Thór although I hope I was a little less grumpy about it, at least on the surface.

In spite of this though, the author still brings the chill, both in terms of the storyline and the physical sensation you have when you read the descriptions of snow drifts and the conditions that still have the power to cut Siglufjörður off from the rest of the island. There really is a power in his words as he transports you to the heart of the town, trudging through the snow alongside our hero, wishing you’d worn thicker gloves. Ragnar Jonasson also manages to bring the sense of isolation and remoteness of the locations as he introduces readers to Siglunes, one of the few remaining, remote and almost uninhabitable settlements that used to dot along the north coast. Accessible only by boat or a treacherous hike, the kind of isolation and segregation if offers both fascinates and scared me in equal measure.

If you come here looking for fast paced, action led mystery, then you are really looking at the wrong series entirely. This is a slow paced, almost contemplative story, in which the lives of the characters, Ari Thór especially, are every bit as important as the case he is trying to solve. This is a story of love, of family, abuse of trust and of lies, encapsulated in a quiet mystery that ended with the tragic death of a young girl.

My compliments to translator David Warriner who has captured every ounce of the beauty and quiet spirit of the first novels, making the author’s words flow beautifully in English once more. My only complaint? It was over far too quickly. I will truly miss Ari Thór, but I can’t think of a more fitting way to say goodbye.

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.

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Books by Ragnar Jónasson

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