The Darkness by Ragnar Jónasson – REVIEW
Be the first to read the incredible, chilling first novel in the new Hulda crime series from Icelandic superstar Ragnar Jónasson…
At sixty-four, Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdottir of the Reykjavik Police is about to take on her last case before she retires: A young woman, an asylum seeker from Russia, found murdered on the seaweed covered rocks of the Vatnsleysuströnd in Iceland.
When Hulda starts to ask questions it isn’t long before she realizes that no one can be trusted and that no one is telling the whole truth. Spanning Reykjavik, the Icelandic highlands and the cold, isolated fjords, The Darkness is a thrilling new crime thriller from one of the biggest new names in Scandi noir.
“She felt sure that nature could be very cruel and unforgiving, especially in wintertime, that nature didn’t really care if you lived or died.”
I received an ARC of this book from the wonderful people at Michael Joseph in exchange for an honest review. The Darkness is the first in a new trilogy told in reverse chronology and will be followed by The Island and The Mist. The book revolves around Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdóttir, sixty-four-years-old and forced into early retirement with permission to investigate one cold case before leaving. Hulda chooses to investigate the unsolved murder of a young asylum seeker from Russia found in a nearby cove over a year ago and dismissed by her lazy colleague as a suicide. Hulda’s compassion and innate decency make her a likeable character and one I came to love reading about. I can’t wait to see what she was like when younger in the next two books.
“She couldn’t give up now, not when all her instincts told her she was closing in on the truth. But she was afraid that this one day, her last day, wouldn’t be enough.”
I love discovering new information about countries and was surprised to learn that Iceland is not the classless society I had naively imagined it to be. Iceland is often described as the best place in the world to be a woman, regularly coming top of the World Economic Forum’s gender equality index, so it was eye-opening to read about some of the workplace discrimination Hulda had experienced at the hands of the police patriarchy. Hulda was also treated as irrelevant by some of the younger members of the police and I wonder whether this is indicative of a wider generational divide in Iceland or a rare occurrence? One fascinating aspect of the story was how we can never really know someone. Hulda has long-buried secrets that slowly come to light as the book progresses and I was constantly reevaluating my judgement of her character.
“The law wasn’t the sole artbiter of right and wrong. Sometimes you had to look at the bigger picture.”
The setting was ruthlessly beautiful and bleak at times, creating an atmospheric thriller that is a prime example of Nordic Noir. From the icy streets of Reykjavik to the Icelandic highlands and the cold, isolated fjords, the setting is almost like another character, weaving a spell around the reader and heightening the tension with its threateningly chilling landscape. The central crime was engaging and the alternating point of views kept me invested in the victim. I was completely surprised by the bold ending but it felt like a fitting choice. I will definitely be reading the other books in the trilogy as soon as they’re released in the UK.
|About the Author
Ragnar Jonasson is author of the award-winning and international bestselling Dark Iceland series.
His debut Snowblind, first in the Dark Iceland series, went to number one in the Amazon Kindle charts shortly after publication. The book was also a no. 1 Amazon Kindle bestseller in Australia. Snowblind has been a paperback bestseller in France. Nightblind won the Dead Good Reader Award 2016 for Most Captivating Crime in Translation.