#BookReview Winterkill (Dark Iceland #6) by Ragnar Jónasson, trans. by David Warriner @OrendaBooks

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Winterkill by Ragnar Jónasson, the sixth – and sadly, final – book in his bestselling ‘Dark Iceland’ series, featuring Inspector Ari Thór Arason. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Orenda Books for my digital proof copy. Winterkill was published as an ebook and in hardcover on 10th December 2020 and will be available in paperback on 21st January 2021.

WinterkillAbout the Book

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.

Format: Hardback (240 pages)                Publisher: Orenda Books
Publication date: 10th December 2020 Genre: Crime, Mystery, Thriller

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My Review

Winterkill is only the second book I’ve read in Ragnar Jónasson’s Dark Iceland series (the other was the previous book in the series, Whiteout) but I’m sure even those who haven’t read any of the previous books will be able to enjoy this skillfully crafted crime thriller. And I can pretty much guarantee you’ll then want to go back and read the series from the beginning.

The book sees Inspector Ari Thór called to investigate the unexplained death of a young girl. Unfortunately, it coincides with the arrival for the Easter holiday of his ex-girlfriend Kristin and his young son, Stefnir. His attempts to balance the demands of the investigation with spending quality time with his son illustrate just one of the reasons for the breakdown of his and Kristin’s relationship.

Away from concerns about his private life, Ari Thór is feeling the pressure of his new rank and the absence of a sounding board in the shape of his former boss, Tomas. Ari Thór is also struggling to replicate that close working relationship with his new junior officer, Ögmundur. One of the many things that make Ari Thór such an engaging character is his strong sense of justice, meaning he feels an acute responsibility to the dead girl’s heartbroken mother to discover how and why she died.

As the investigation progresses, Ari Thór interviews a number of witnesses who knew the dead girl but none seem to fit the bill as suspects although, as he reflects, ‘appearances could be deceptive and nothing was ever completely black or white’.  Most significantly, the motive for her death – whether murder or suicide –  continues to elude him, this in a community where everyone knows everyone else or is related.

As well as constructing intriguing mysteries, the author is adept at creating an atmosphere of unease. Even amidst the beauty of the landscape and the tourists enjoying themselves on the ski slopes or indulging in hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls (mmm!) in one of the town’s cafes, there exists the threat a snowstorm could cut off the town from the outside world at any moment.

The snowstorm, when it arrives, coincides with Ari Thór getting closer to discovering the truth about the girl’s death.  Although the snow may have turned the streets of Siglufjörður white, there are black deeds to be uncovered beneath its snow-covered roofs. It all makes for a tense and dramatic climax to Ari Thór’s investigation.

Naturally, fans of the series will be sad to bid farewell to Ari Thór. However, they do say it’s good to go out on a high and Winterkill certainly delivers in that respect.

In three words: Gripping, dark, atmospheric

Try something similar: The Coral Bride by Roxanne Bouchard

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Ragnar JonassonAbout the Author

Icelandic crime writer 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.

Connect with Ragnar
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About the Translator

David Warriner translates from French and nurtures a healthy passion for Franco, Nordic and British crime fiction. Growing up in deepest Yorkshire, he developed incurable Francophilia at an early age. Emerging from Oxford with a modern languages degree, he narrowly escaped the graduate rat race by hopping on a plane to Canada – and never looked back. More than a decade into a high-powered commercial translation career, he listened to his heart and turned his hand again to the delicate art of literary translation. David has lived in France and Quebec, and now calls beautiful British Columbia home.

Winterkill BT 4

#BookReview Betrayal by Lilja Sigurðardóttir @RandomTTours @OrendaBooks

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Betrayal by Lilja Sigurðardóttir, translated by Quentin Bates. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in the tour and to Orenda for my digital review copy. Do check out the post by my tour buddy for today, Gemma at Between The Pages Book Club.

About the Book

Burned out and traumatised by her horrifying experiences around the world, aid worker Úrsula has returned to Iceland. Unable to settle, she accepts a high-profile government role in which she hopes to make a difference again.

But on her first day in the post, Úrsula promises to help a mother seeking justice for her daughter, who had been raped by a policeman, and life in high office soon becomes much more harrowing than Úrsula could ever have imagined. A homeless man is stalking her – but is he hounding her, or warning her of some danger? And why has the death of her father in police custody so many years earlier reared its head again?

As Úrsula is drawn into dirty politics, facing increasingly deadly threats, the lives of her stalker, her bodyguard and even a witch-like cleaning lady intertwine. Small betrayals become large ones, and the stakes are raised ever higher…

Format: Paperback (276 pages) Publisher: Orenda
Publication date: 1st October 2020 Genre: Crime,

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My Review

In the book, betrayal comes in many forms: infidelity, broken promises, compromised principles, false accusations and disloyalty. Many of these are manifested in the character of Úrsula herself. Driven by the same need to make a difference that saw her work in disaster relief around the world, she undertakes to try to right an injustice. That decision will have consequences she could not have foreseen. In the process, Úrsula gets a lesson in the power of vested interests and a glimpse of the decidedly murky side of politics.

The strains on Úrsula’s family life of her high profile role as Minister of the Interior are soon apparent. The change that was supposed to bring the family closer together has done just the opposite, widening the fractures that already existed in her marriage to Nonni. Úrsula’s own actions and her inability to share with him the traumatic scenes she witnessed during her aid work only add to the tensions in their relationship.

The book has a complex web of different storylines and secondary characters that demand the reader’s full attention but definitely repay the effort. (The exception for me were the more bizarre elements of the storyline involving Stella.) Some of the connections between the characters seem obvious from the beginning, others less so. However, all the threads are cleverly woven together in the end to create a picture you may not have been expecting. And you’ll have learned about Icelandic naming conventions along the way.

The short chapters and the fact that events unfold over the space of only a few weeks create a sense of pace. And the author has certainly mastered the art of finishing a chapter with a sentence that will chill, thrill or force you as a reader to say, okay just one more chapter…

Betrayal is a skilfully-crafted and gripping thriller full of contemporary resonance, touching as it does on topics such as press intrusion into the private lives of those in public office, political corruption, police brutality, the toxic nature of social media, drug culture, homelessness, racial discrimination…to name just a few.

In three words: Intense, compelling, suspenseful

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About the Author

Icelandic crime-writer Lilja Sigurdardóttir was born in the town of Akranes in 1972 and raised in Mexico, Sweden, Spain and Iceland. An award-winning playwright, Lilja has written four crime novels, including Snare, Trap and Cage, making up the Reykjavik Noir trilogy, which have hit bestseller lists worldwide. The film rights have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. She lives in Reykjavík with her partner.

Connect with Lilja
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