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Another great Icelandic mystery from Ragnar Jónasson

1st November 2017

Whiteout by Ragnar Jónasson (translated by Quentin Bates) – another great Icelandic mystery.

Published today, Whiteout is the fifth book in translation in Ragnar’s Dark Iceland series – featuring detectives Ari Thór Arason and Tómas. I have much enjoyed them all. As I have written before, they have an Agatha Christie-like quality about them – but are considerably darker and more sinister. Much the same recipe as Christie applies, though… Whiteout takes a possible ‘cosy’ murder and a group of plausible suspects, interrogates them, throws in some false clues, mixes well, and sees who comes out as the guilty party. The story is clever and well thought through. It is great fun trying to double guess the author!

Another great Icelandic mystery

Tómas has long since relocated to Reykjavík from Siglufjördur in Northern Iceland. A woman dies in mysterious circumstances in Kálfshamarsvík – a remote hamlet on a cliff top about three hours’ drive from Siglufjördur. Tómas is given the case, and calls Ari Thór over from Siglufjördur to assist… as Christmas approaches. As readers of the previous books will know, Ari Thór has had a troubled ‘off/on’ relationship with his girlfriend, Kristin. She is very pregnant, and they had been planning on spending Christmas together in their house. They decide she should accompany Ari Thór on the trip rather than wait alone in Siglufjördur.

When they all get to Kálfshamarsvík, they find a lonely house, and a light house, perched high above the wild ocean below. A woman’s body had been found at the base of the cliffs. Ásta had travelled from Reykjavik to visit her childhood home after many years away. She had then died in mysterious circumstances. The house contains the suspects if she had indeed been murdered – brother and sister, Thorá and Óskar (who act as housekeepers for most of the year while the owner is away), the owner, Reynir, the son of the original owner and now a successful businessman living in Reykjavik – ‘home’ for the festivities, and Arnór, married (but you wouldn’t know it) who lives just down the road and used to be a childhood playmate of Ásta. Anyone of them could have had motivation, and could have committed the possible crime.

Ari Thór and Tomas set out to establish the facts – and in the process find out that Ásta is not the first of her family to die in unexplained circumstances at the same spot. Both her mother and her younger sister had ‘fallen’ to their death from the same cliffs.

A race against time (and Kristin’s imminent delivery…) to find the murderer – if, indeed, there had been a murder – takes up the latter part of the book. Christmas is largely forgotten.

Whiteout is exciting and it is well written (and well translated). The book (as indeed is the rest of the Dark Iceland series) is also especially good for TripFiction location aficionados. I have not visited Iceland (a serious omission) but – having read all five books – I feel I have a good idea of at least the Northernmost part of the country. It is an area that is beautiful and tranquil in summer, and extremely harsh in winter.

Definitely recommended.

Tony for the TripFiction team

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