In Ragnar Jónasson’s Winterkill, the latest entry in his Dark Iceland series, Detective Ari Thór Arason has just been promoted to inspector in Siglufjörður. He’s anxious about the approaching Easter weekend visit from his estranged wife and son, which he hopes will come with the opportunity to mend fences. But his domestic crisis gives way to a crisis of a different kind: a teenage girl is found dead on the street, the victim of a high fall. In keeping with Jónasson’s previous novels, Arason’s subsequent investigation leads him to some very dark places.
This brisk thriller features no shortage of suspects and suspicious characters. They include a rebellious artist, a historian with a sordid past, a solicitous doctor, a nervous elderly couple, and an old man in a nursing home who might know something about the girl’s death. As he picks through cryptic clues and follows leads that hint at connections as far away as North America, Arason also has to contend with the sudden reappearance of an old flame, and a new deputy who is far less dedicated than he is.
While the narrative springs its share of surprises, it maintains focus on beleaguered Arason, too. He’s a decent man who’s plagued by doubts and responsibilities. Through him comes a touching view of life in the hinterlands, where inhabitants are buffeted by economic crises, harsh seasons, and personal tragedies, yet are ever ready to buy into the promise of a new start.
Jónasson’s punchy, straightforward prose is engrossing, and if the book’s final revelations aren’t necessarily surprising, they’re eminently logical and satisfying. For those hankering for hearty storytelling in an unusual setting, Winterkill is a diverting mystery.
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