#BlogTour #BookReview - Whiteout by Ragnar Jonasson

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.

It's such a pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for Whiteout today, my grateful thanks to the author, publishers and Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my advance copy of the book.
It's a bittersweet review today as this is the last book of the Dark Iceland series. I only read the first book, Snowblind a few months ago but certain books steal their way into your heart and Ragnar Jónasson's stories have done just that. The events in Whiteout occur between the previous book published in the UK, Rupture and the second book released here, Nightblind. It opens with one of the most memorable prologues I've ever read; in just a few lines the scene is set for an appalling tragedy as it recounts the last few moments of a little girl before she falls from a clifftop to her death. This bleak start is soon mirrored by a second tragedy when a second person, Ásta  - the now adult sister of the first little girl who died - falls to her death from the same cliff. When it transpires that the girls' mother also died in an apparent suicide from the same place then questions need to be asked, and Ari Thór's old boss, Tómas is the man brought in to investigate. He asks for Ari Thór to assist him with the case and before long the pair are drawn into the dark secrets of the inhabitants of an impressive but lonely house in the remote former village of Kálfshamarvík.
What follows is, in many ways a contemporary tribute to the Golden Age of crime fiction as Ragnar Jónasson gives us his version of the closed circle mysteries that are perhaps most synonymous with Agatha Christie. Instead of an English country house, the setting here is a harsh Icelandic outcrop where the raging seas and high winds batter and shape the land, and which becomes a sort of metaphor for turbulent emotions that end up causing these grim tragedies. Was Ásta's death a suicide or does somebody have her blood on their hands? The suspects;  the elderly brother and sister housekeepers, Óskar and Thóra, property owner and well-known businessman, Reynir Ákason and neighbour, Arnór all seem know more than they're letting on. A second death casts a further shadow over the proceedings and is especially poignant so near to Christmas. As the two police officers try to figure out the truth, Ari Thór must also confront his own past. He can't help but be struck by the similarities between himself and the tragic Ásta , both having lost their parents at a young age. Now about to become a father himself, this case proves to be an affecting one for Ari Thór as his fears about his imminent new role are juxtaposed with his sense of loss and the sudden realisation that his own father only had a few short years between the birth of his son and his death.
Ari Thór can't help but question whether he has been using his time as well as he could, something that becomes a theme in Whiteout as we learn more about the foiled hopes and dreams, and the wasted opportunities of the few inhabitants of this lonely area. The timeless quality to the novel continues as the officers are forced to wait for the results of forensic tests due to Kálfshamarvík's distance from Reykjavik, particularly with Christmas just days away. Although this is a modern police investigation, the scientific proof will have to be the final jigsaw pieces in a case that must be tackled the old fashioned way, through astute interviews and intuition. Red herrings abound as Tómas and Ari Thór look into the dark history of this oppressive house which seems to have cast a long shadow over its various inhabitants over the years. The contrast between the terrible events that have occurred here and the simple warmth and traditions of an Icelandic Christmas couldn't be more striking. I've loved each of the Dark Iceland books for the immersive sense of atmosphere that Ragnar Jónasson evokes and Whiteout is no different. It takes a very special writer to create something quite so beautiful, to capture the sense of place and to write with such empathy and insight. As with other books in the series this is a rather melancholy story and yet the haunting and beautiful prose completely captivated me. I felt such a mix of emotions when I reached the last page, the satisfaction of reading a novel that I'd become so engrossed in I lost track of time then the sad realisation that my time with Ari Thór has reached its conclusion. I will be returning to these books again of course but for now all I can do is thank Ragnar (and brilliant translator, Quentin Bates) for this truly wonderful book and series.

Whiteout is published in the UK by Orenda Books and is available to buy now. Don't miss the other stops on the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

 Ragnar Jónasson is author of the international bestselling Dark Iceland series. His debut Snowblind went to number one in the kindle charts shortly after publication, and Nightblind, Blackout and Rupture soon followed suit, hitting the number one spot in five countries, and the series being sold in 15 countries and for TV. Ragnar was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, where he continues to work as a lawyer. He also teaches copyright law at Reykjavik University and has previously worked on radio and television, including as a TV-news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. Ragnar is a member of the UK Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) and set up its first overseas chapter in Reykjavik. He is also the co-founder of the international crime-writing festival Iceland Noir. From the age of 17, Ragnar translated 14 Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic. He has appeared on festival panels worldwide, and lives in Reykjavik with his wife and young daughters.
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