By Ragnar Jónasson
Published by Orenda Books (1 November 2017)
I bought the ebook and pre-ordered the hardback, then received an ARC from the publisher
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.
Yet again, Ragnar Jónasson has written a compelling crime novel. I often compare his books to those of Agatha Christie (many of which he has translated into Icelandic). Whiteout, in particular, has a cosy crime feel to its plot, with a fairly small cast of suspects and a 'locked room (house, in this case)' scenario. Yet it's much darker than the Christie books - and obviously covers modern themes.
The book is intriguing from the first page, introducing readers to a young woman called Ásta Káradóttir who has returned to her childhood home. This fleshes out Ásta's character straight away, so that when she's found dead at the base of some cliffs you already feel something for her. She's not just a random dead body - she's already someone the reader 'knows'. For me, this certainly made me want to discover what happened to her, and whether her death was just an accident. The fact that her mother and younger sister also died in the same spot, 25 years earlier, suggests something more sinister is going on. It's up to Ari Thór and his colleague Tómas to investigate.
I read most of the book in one sitting. As expected, Whiteout is atmospheric and well written (and well translated), with haunting poetic descriptions of the old lighthouse and nearby abandoned house. Each of the suspects was present in the house that night. All appear to be harbouring secrets and may have a possible motive. I spent my time going round in circles trying to work out the 'whodunnit'. In the end I gave up trying, realising I just had to wait until Ragnar Jónasson revealed the truth at the end.
Whiteout is full of secrets and surprises. It has left me wanting more - in a good way, I should add. I'm (almost) tempted to learn Icelandic, so that I don't have to wait too long to read the next book in this series. In the meantime, I'll have to head back to the beginning of this Dark Iceland series and read the books again.
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