Source: Review copy
Publication: 10th December 2020 from Orenda Books
A blizzard is approaching Siglufjörður, and that can only mean one thing…
When the body of a nineteen-year-old girl is found on the main street of Siglufjörður, Police Inspector Ari Thór battles a violent Icelandic storm in an increasingly dangerous hunt for her killer … The chilling, claustrophobic finale to the international bestselling Dark Iceland series.
Easter weekend is approaching, and snow is gently falling in Siglufjörður, the northernmost town in Iceland, as crowds of tourists arrive to visit the majestic ski slopes.
Ari Thór Arason is now a police inspector, but he’s separated from his girlfriend, who lives in Sweden with their three-year-old son. A family reunion is planned for the holiday, but a violent blizzard is threatening and there is an unsettling chill in the air.
Three days before Easter, a nineteen-year-old local girl falls to her death from the balcony of a house on the main street. A perplexing entry in her diary suggests that this may not be an accident, and when an old man in a local nursing home writes ‘She was murdered’ again and again on the wall of his room, there is every suggestion that something more sinister lies at the heart of her death…
As the extreme weather closes in, cutting the power and access to Siglufjörður, Ari Thór must piece together the puzzle to reveal a horrible truth … one that will leave no one unscathed.
I’ve been waiting for this book for such a long time. Jónasson had long hinted at another Ari Thor and in 2019 that he confirmed in answer to my question in his Edinburgh International Book Festival session, that there would definitely be one more book.
It’s taken 15 nail biting months to go from that commitment to holding this book in my hands, and so the big question for me is – was it worth the wait?
To answer that question, it’s worth going back to consider what it is about Ari Thor Arason that makes him quite so memorable. He’s a good looking chap, that’s for sure. But that’s not what draws us to him. It is more his innate decency, his loyalty and to some extent his naivety. We have watched him grow through six books from rookie young cop with a mentor, learning on the job, to being in charge of the station in Siglufjörður and now with a mentee of his own, albeit one who isn’t inclined to treat his superior with the same reverence Ari Thor gave to his boss.
At the same time, we have watched with sadness as his significant relationship changed and left him with sadness. Ai Thor has gone from loving partner to absent father though he would not have wished it so.
Now though his son and estranged partner are back in Siglufjörður for an Easter weekend visit. Things feel different here. Change is in the air and we are on the cusp of new and different experiences. Siglufjörður’s new tunnel has worked its magic and the town is no longer cut off from its neighbours. The economy has picked up as a result and tourists are now flocking to try out the ski slopes; no longer fearful of being cut off.
New restaurants and coffee shops have opened and there is a bustle to the town that there never was before.
And yet, that sense of isolation still pervades this book. Ari Thor is a lonely character. Lonely in his search for the truth as he does his job. Lonely in his search for someone to love and to have that love reciprocated. Lonely in his desire for loyalty to play a core part in the lives of people he knows and cares about.
In the midst of all this change, it is Ari Thor who is our constant; our North star against whom we measure everyone else.
Against this backdrop we have the lonely death of a young woman and in a nursing home, an elderly man displays signs of real distress. Ari Thor must find out what has happened and at the same time strive to find quality time to spend with his son and his former partner. All this against the backdrop of a looming storm and a chill in the air which is about more than the weather.
Jónasson is a master of the art of creating atmosphere and Winterkill has this in spades. Taken together with the mysteries in this book, he has created the perfect situation for a close knit mystery in a town where everyone knows everyone else and their business, too.
His themes are contemporary and at the same time, timeless. As he gives us glimpses into Ari Thor’s thought processes, he renews and reinforces our bonds with this remarkable character, making us care about his future; wanting him to be happy even as he investigates the worst of his fellow human beings.
Verdict: Was it worth the wait? You bet your life it was. Winterkill is about love, loyalty and family. It is about what matters in life and the importance of the values that take us forward. An elegant, if disturbing, mystery opens up a range of issues to explore and the result is a strong and emotive story that seeps into our core and burns from the inside. A splendid and fitting conclusion to this chapter of Ari Thor’s life. Because I’m not giving up on him….
Ragnar Jónasson was born in Reykjavík, and currently works as a lawyer, while teaching copyright law at the Reykjavík University Law School. In the past, he’s worked in TV and radio, including as a news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. Before embarking on a writing career, Ragnar translated fourteen Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic, and has had several short stories published in German, English and Icelandic literary magazines. Ragnar set up the first overseas chapter of the CWA (Crime Writers’ Association) in Reykjavík, and is co-founder of the International crime-writing festival Iceland Noir. Ragnar’s debut thriller, Snowblind became an almost instant bestseller when it was published in June 2015 with Nightblind (winner of the Dead Good Reads Most Captivating Crime in Translation Award) and then Blackout and Rupture following soon after. To date, Ragnar Jónasson has written five novels in the Dark Iceland series, which has been optioned for TV by On the Corner. He lives in Reykjavík with his wife and two daughters.