I’m delighted to be able to share my review of The Darkness by Ragnar Jónasson as part of the blog tour today. The Darkness is book one of the Hidden Iceland series, and if this first instalment is anything to go by, readers are in for a treat with this new series.
A young woman is found dead on a remote Icelandic beach.
She came looking for safety, but instead she found a watery grave.
A hasty police investigation determines her death as suicide . . .
When Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdóttir of the Reykjavik police is forced into early retirement, she is told she can investigate one last cold case of her choice – and she knows which one.
What she discovers is far darker than suicide . . . And no one is telling Hulda the whole story.
When her own colleagues try to put the brakes on her investigation, Hulda has just days to discover the truth. A truth she will risk her own life to find.
There are many things that I enjoyed about this novel, and the unusual protagonist is one of them. Hulda is in her sixties and due to retire at the end of the year, and to say that she is not looking forward to it is something of an understatement. So it comes as a complete blow when she is asked to retire early, being given the opportunity to work one last cold case before doing so. It’s clear from the beginning that Hulda is a thorough and conscientious detective, and yet she harbours a sense of bitterness about the way she has been treated by the police force, passed over for promotion many times in favour of her younger, often male colleagues. I felt a great deal of sympathy for Hulda, although she admits that collaboration isn’t her strong point, and understands that this will have played a part in her circumstances.
The cold case that she picks is a fascinating one, concerning the death of a Russian asylum seeker a year earlier. The investigation at the time ruled it a suicide, and yet Hulda has a number of concerns about the investigation, particularly as the officer involved is known for his lazy, slapdash approach. Even a year on, Hulda is able to obtain additional evidence and witness statements that suggest that the death may not have been a suicide after all. Despite the modern setting, there is something quite old school about the investigation, and this does feel like a classic mystery as Hulda tries to work out what happened, doing a lot of leg work in the process and tracking down those who were connected to Elena.
I loved the way in which we learn about Hulda’s background, from her childhood, which wasn’t entirely straightforward, to her relationship with her husband who passed away. These snippets of Hulda’s past are woven into the main narrative brilliantly, resulting in a fully-formed character with many smaller details thrown in to explain elements of her behaviour and why she is as she is.
There are some books that you start reading and you just know that you are in for a treat. The Darkness was one such book for me. From the opening chapter, I was immediately hooked by Jónasson’s slightly unusual protagonist and the situation she finds herself in, and I found Elena’s case to be absolutely fascinating. The Darkness is intricately plotted and reads like a classic mystery with some darker themes running through it, and it went in a completely different direction to what I was expecting. I can’t recommend The Darkness enough, and I fully expect it to appear in my list of the top books of 2018.
The Darkness will be published on 15 March by Michael Joseph. Many thanks to Laura Nicol for the early review copy, and the opportunity to take part in the blog tour.
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Make sure you check out the others stops on the tour: