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.
Time for my first blog tour of the new year and, what a dazzler to start off 2021! I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for Winterkill by Ragnar Jonasson, the final book in his Dark Iceland series. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
I’m ashamed to admit that I have never read a book by Ragnar Jonasson before, so I was coming in to the Dark Iceland series at the very end without knowing anything about any of the characters. This did not detract from my enjoyment of the novel one bit, in fact, it just made me want to go back and read the preceding novels in the series.
The book is set in the small town of Siglufjörður in northern Iceland at the start of the Easter weekend. Ari Thor Arason is the police inspector, and is in sole charge of the town’s policing, except for a new, young assistant straight out of the police academy. So when a dead body is discovered lying in the main street of the quiet town in the middle of the night, this is the first serious investigation that Ari Thor has been in sole charge of, and the responsibility lays heavy on his shoulders. To compound his problems, the weekend marks the arrival of his estranged partner and young son for a long-awaited visit.
There were a number of things I really loved about this novel. First was the small town Icelandic setting of the novel. I’ve read a number of books set in Reykavik, but this was my first exploring what life is like in a very remote and tiny town in this small country, and it was absolutely fascinating. The author really brings the setting to life, I could clearly see the town in my mind’s eye, and imagine what it must be like to live there. Coming from a tiny village, I could understand the conflict between the comfort and claustrophobia of small town life, compounded as it is here by remoteness and the harshness of the Icelandic winter. It was the perfect setting for a tense, suspenseful murder investigation, I felt quite in edge throughout most of the book.
Secondly, I loved how human Ari Thor was throughout the book. There is a lot of focus on the balance between his home life and work life. As there is such a small police force, it is almost impossible for Ari Thor to be off duty, and we can see clearly throughout the book how closely his two worlds are intertwined, and how this has impacted, and continues to impact all of his relationships, particularly with his ex and young son. I also thought it was so interesting that the author displays Ari Thor as a man with many uncertainties and frailties in his life and character. He is unsure of his ability to manage such a serious case, unsure about what he wants to do with his future, constantly questioning his decisions, how other people feel about him, what he is capable of. Normally we see men who are hardened, confident, stoic in these roles, Ari Thor is not like that at all and I found it refreshing and honest.
Finally, the actual crime itself and the way the story pans out was gripping. The book is very short, only 225 pages, but a lot of action is packed in to the pages. We start off with something that looks like a simple suicide, but over the course of the investigation so many secrets are uncovered that we end up in a very different place than where we started, but not at all in a predictable way. The plot is engaging, as is the way that Ari investigates it, and the whole book was a rewarding reading experience from start to finish.
All in all, Winterkill is a short but satisfying read, with interesting and very human characters and an atmospheric setting that really drew me in and held me in thrall. A great start to my reading year, and an introduction to a new author that I can’t wait to read more of.
Winterkill is out now in hardback and ebook formats, and in paperback on 21 January. You can buy your copy here.
Please do visit some of the other fabulous blogs featuring on the tour to get their views on the book:
About the Author
Icelandic crime writer Ragnar Jónasson was born in Reykjavík, and currently works as a lawyer, while teaching 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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