The Darkness by Ragnar Jonasson

Review published on March 13, 2018.

I picked the coldest and snowiest week of the winter so far to delve into the first of the new Hidden Iceland series by this author. Jonasson is a best selling Icelandic writer, he’s also a lawyer and has translated 14 Agatha Christie novels into his native tongue.

There was a little of the Miss Marple about the novel’s detective Hulda Hermannsdottir, who at 64 years of age is contemplating retirement, albeit with reluctance, following a long and distinguished career – mind you, apparently there are only two murders per year in Iceland, but seeing the negligence of her fellow officer Alexander we begin to feel the detection figures are for Hulda not as good as they should be.

When her boss decides to push on her leaving date he offers her the opportunity to take on a cold case and she decides to revisit the death of a young Russian asylum seeker, Elena, who was found drowned (but with strangulation injuries) in a deserted cove along the coast from Reyjavik.

Soon Hulda realises there are some loose ends. As a detective she smells some inconsistencies, not least when no one seemed to care that Elena had been given asylum confirmation the day before she died or that her friend, a fellow young Russian girl, has also disappeared.

But when she opens a can of worms about some suspects Hulga gets hauled over the coals and her whole life and career could be under threat.

There is an interesting backstory to Hulga, which links in with the plot. However, there is a twist in the novel which may leave some readers frustrated. I’d be interested to see how the novelist follows this up in the second novel.

The Icelantic scenery is wonderfully described and evokes a time beyond just the ice and snow of a winter crime noir thriller. Hulga’s view of the world perhaps seems out of kilter with other thrusting young (often male) detectives in similar books but her love of walking, a sad childhood and worry about loneliness linked to a friendly walking companion add some reality to the whole book.

I enjoyed it as a good read and I think book clubs would like to explore Hulga the detective as someone different in the crime world.

Philipa Coughlan 4/4

The Darkness by Ragnar Jonasson
Michael Joseph 9780718187248 hbk Mar 2018

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