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 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 the 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.
If you have been following this little bookish blog for a while, then you will know that I am already a big fan of Jónasson’s writing. It all started with a 99p download of Snowblind back in December 2016, which I devoured in a couple of days and went straight on to download the rest of the books in the Dark Iceland series. When an email landed in my inbox asking if I would like to be part of the blog tour for Whiteout, I couldn’t say yes fast enough!
Whiteout follows the investigation into the death of a young woman, who has apparently committed suicide by throwing herself from the treacherous cliffs at Kálfshamarvík. Ari Thór is reunited with Tómas, previously Inspector in Siglufjordur who has relocated to ReykjavÍk with his wife. We get the impression that Tómas really has something to prove with this case; that he has not settled into police life in Reykjavik as easily as he had hoped to.
Ari Thór and Tómas arrive at the majestic and somewhat eerie Kálfshamarvík a couple of days before Christmas Eve, arriving at what seems like:
“not only… the end of the road, but… the end of the world.”
They walk into a somewhat peculiar arrangement, with a mixed bag of characters and a house that is full of secrets. As they work through their theories, another death occurs, and they struggle to identify – who, if anyone, is the murderer?
As we have come to expect from Jónasson, location plays a significant part in the book and the atmospheric wilds of Iceland are painted beautifully. With the deserted ruins of the once-village, the mountainous columns of basalt and the tall white lighthouse; Jónasson’s descriptions of Kálfshamarvík reminded me of the smuggler stories my Grandad used to tell me many years ago. The isolation of the area creates a chill that creeps out of the pages and settles somewhere around your shoulders. It’s definitely a book for a cold winter night; though despite it being billed as having a Christmas theme I didn’t find this especially prevalent. I did enjoy the references to a lovely Icelandic tradition of calling up a radio station to send Christmas greetings to your loved ones – it’s both surprising and heartening that this is something that prevails even in the age of social media!
The characters that Ari Thór and Tómas find at Kálfshamarvík are well developed, with detailed back stories and complicated emotions; and the story kept me guessing right to the end.
If you’re one for indulging in the lovely Icelandic tradition of Jólabokaflód, this would be a perfect gift for some Christmas Eve reading!
P.S. If you haven’t heard of Jólabokaflód, have a look here! We started this tradition a couple of years back and it’s a lovely way to spend Christmas Eve.
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 18 countries and for TV. Ragnar was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, where he continues to work as a lawyer. 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.