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.
Though I had never read any books by Ragnar Jonasson, I'd read a lot of positive reviews and comments about his Icelandic crime thriller series, so I didn't think twice to accept the publisher's generous offer of a copy of White Out, the latest instalment, in exchange of an honest review.
Though fifth in the series, White Out can very well be read as a standalone. The author provides enough background information to help the reader understand who's who and what had happened before, so I found it very easy to settle in the story with the main characters.
It's almost Christmas and Ari Thor, a young detective and principle character of this series, is contacted by his ex-boss Tomas to travel with him to the North, to Kalfshamarsvik, to the scene of a suspicious death. A young woman has fallen off the cliffs and lost her life. There, the detectives are stunned to learn that decades earlier, both the woman's mother and younger sister had lost their lives at exactly the same spot. How could this be? What happened? Was this an unfortunate accident? Suicide? Murder? Or the deed of some supernatural entity said to be lurking in the area? Why did this woman felt she had to visit this place after twenty-five years away, only to end up dead at the bottom of the cliffs? The detectives must not only rebuild the last days and hours preceding this woman's death, but they also have to go back in time and dig deep in the past.
The plot is very atmospheric and intriguing and even though not very fast-paced, I ended up devouring this book pretty quickly as I found it very engrossing from the beginning. I was curious to find out what had really happened to Asta.
Apart from the main characters, the story revolves around a handful of other dubious characters - mainly the occupants of the house at Kalfshamarsvik, who all seem to harbour disturbing secrets and act suspiciously. Someone knows what happened. Someone has seen something but is keeping quiet, but who? What's sure is that no one can be trusted to be telling the truth.
Thanks to the author's vivid descriptions (and the excellent translation) I could clearly imagine myself there surrounded by the white, cold, desolate snowy landscape, the magnificent lighthouse standing proud at the edge of the point and the old house perched high up on the cliffs. I Googled Kalfshamarsvik lighthouse and bay (the setting of the book) as I wanted to see this location for myself, and I have to say that it's a really beautiful spot. The lighthouse - a key element of this story - is really an impressive structure, as is the columnar basalt which is a natural wonder found in this bay.
With vivid descriptions, a great central protagonist, an intriguing mystery, a bunch of possible perpetrators, twists, turns and shocking revelations, White Out is a brilliant, engrossing read and I highly recommend it.
This was my first book by this author, but it certainly won't be my last. In fact I've already downloaded the first one in the series, Snowblind as I want to start the series from the beginning.
With thanks to the fab Orenda publishers for an ARC of this book which I voluntarily accepted to read and review and to the lovely Anne Cater for organising and inviting me to take part in the blog tour.
Ragnar Jonasson 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 20 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.