I absolutely loved the first novel in Ragnar Jónasson’s Hidden Iceland series, The Darkness. It was one of my top novels of 2018, and The Island was one of my most anticipated reads for 2019. It’s always a bit nerve-wracking to go into the second novel after loving the first so much, but Jónasson has more than lived up to my expectations.
Four friends visit the island.
But only three return…
Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdóttir is sent to the isolated island of Elliðaey to investigate and soon finds haunting similarities with a previous case – a young woman found murdered ten years ago in the equally desolate Westfjords.
Is there a patient killer stalking these barren outposts?
As Hulda navigates a sinister game constructed of smoke and mirrors she is convinced that no one is telling the truth, including those closest to her.
But who will crack first? And what secrets is the island hiding?
Haunting, suspenseful and as chilling as an Icelandic winter, The Island follows one woman’s journey to find the truth hidden in the darkest shadows, and shine a light on her own dark past.
The Hidden Iceland series is told in reverse chronological order – it’s unusual, but I think it works really well. While The Darkness was set at the end of Hulda’s career, The Island is set some 15 years or so earlier, and I think that knowing what is in store for Hulda lends some poignancy to the novel. For this reason, I do recommend reading them in order of publication, even though The Island does work as a standalone. There are snippets mentioned in the first novel that aren’t touched upon here, and I expect the next novel in the series, The Mist (due for publication in 2020), to explore these points in more detail, as well as showing the reader a younger Hulda some ten years or so before this novel, perhaps. That said, I expect that it will be interesting to read these novels in chronological order once the series is complete – there is certainly some foreshadowing present in this novel of what’s to come.
I love Hulda Hermannsdóttir. She is incredibly dedicated to her career despite the unfairness that she has faced, and I think that this speaks volumes about her character. To be passed over for promotion several times in favour of younger colleagues with less experience simply because of one’s gender must be incredibly frustrating. Despite the blatant misogyny, she remains steadfast, doing her utmost to see justice done and I loved her dogged determination to get to the truth, no matter what. I loved getting to see more of the personal side of Hulda in this novel as she goes in search of her father, an American soldier temporarily stationed in Iceland several years earlier.
The Island has a fantastic plot, which I don’t want to go into in any real detail, but the mysterious death of a young woman on a remote island is quickly linked to another, similar death from ten years earlier and these two mysteries give Hulda plenty to get her teeth into. The setting plays a huge part in this novel, and Jónasson brings Iceland to life so vividly for reader, particularly the more rural areas that are so key in this novel.
I love this series, and can’t recommend it enough to those who like a character driven police procedural. I think that there’s a little nod to Agatha Christie in Jónasson’s writing, although the story is all his own, and I loved this mystery which I thought was fantastically plotted. I can’t wait for The Mist which is highly likely to be one of my most anticipated reads of 2020 when I come around to compiling that list.
The Island was published on 4 April by Michael Joseph. Many thanks to Laura Nicol and Sriya Varadharajan for the early review copy and the opportunity to join the blog tour.
Make sure you check out the other stops on the tour: