Book Review: The Darkness by Ragnar Jónasson


Book Title and Author: The Darkness by Ragnar Jónasson
Series: Hidden Iceland #1
Publication Date and Publisher: October 16, 2018 by Minotaur Books 
Genre: Crime Fiction, Nordic Noir, Thriller
Pages: 336 pages
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Date Read: October 11, 2018 (e-arc)

4.5 Stars



The body of a young Russian woman washes up on an Icelandic shore. After a cursory investigation, the death is declared a suicide and the case is quietly closed.

Over a year later Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdóttir of the Reykjavík police is forced into early retirement at 64. She dreads the loneliness, and the memories of her dark past that threaten to come back to haunt her. But before she leaves she is given two weeks to solve a single cold case of her choice. She knows which one: the Russian woman whose hope for asylum ended on the dark, cold shore of an unfamiliar country. Soon Hulda discovers that another young woman vanished at the same time, and that no one is telling her the whole story. Even her colleagues in the police seem determined to put the brakes on her investigation. Meanwhile the clock is ticking.

Hulda will find the killer, even if it means putting her own life in danger.

My Review: 

I’ve had a love affair with Nordic Noir for quite a while, but Ragnar Jónasson’s atmospheric description of the gorgeous yet frigidly cold and desolate mountains and dark, icy shores in The Darkness, the first book in his new “Hidden Iceland” series makes me want to hop on the nearest plane to visit Iceland, a place that has long been on my bucket list. More than that though, the writing is excellent with a plot as chilling as the landscape and Detective Inspector Hulda Hermansdottir is a brilliantly drawn character and one of the best fictional detectives I’ve had the pleasure of encountering. This is really such a spectacular book!

Hulda is 64 years old and months away from retiring from her job as Detective Inspector at the Reykjavik Police or so she thinks until she comes into work and is told by her boss, Magnús, she’s being replaced by a younger, up-and-coming male detective who has already been assigned her office and her caseload. Oh, and Magnús wants her to clean out her desk within the next two weeks. Hulda is obviously upset at being forced into early retirement, but she has no say in the matter since this is a male-dominated field and she’s made no friends in the workplace in all the time she’s worked there. All she can do is put up enough resistance that Magnús gives her permission to spend her last two weeks working on any cold case she’d like. If Hulda’s going to be forced to leave her job, then she plans on solving one last big case and ending her career on a high.

The case Hulda looks into is of the death of a Russian immigrant named Elena, who’d applied for political asylum. Her death was ruled a suicide by Hulda’s colleague Alexander, but Hulda is convinced her colleague did shoddy detective work, especially after she finds out Elena’s petition for asylum was granted the day before she was found dead so there was no motive for suicide. The more Hulda discovers about Elena and begins to follow the evidence not only is she more convinced the girl was murdered but she becomes entangled in secrets more sinister and menacing than even she’d envisioned possible when starting her investigation.

Hulda is a complex and intriguing character. I love how she’s written as a bit gruff and aloof yet when you get to know her and her backstory, everything begins to make sense about why she is the way she is. Since this is the first in the series, I especially find it intriguing and absolutely ingenious that the next two books in the series work their way backward in telling Hulda’s story, so we next get to meet Hulda as a young woman decades in the past and understand what caused her to become the way she is when she is older. I’m more than excited to read the next books and wish I could read Icelandic, but alas, I will anxiously wait for them to be translated in English and grab The Island, book #2, as soon as it’s available in 2019!

Oh, and this ending! I almost fell off my couch! It was completely unexpected and one of the best endings that I’ve read in a very long time. It was shocking but also extremely emotional too. I cried. I admit it. What a journey this book is but I loved every unexpected suspenseful twist and turn. This might be my first book by Ragnar Jónasson, but it won’t be my last! I highly recommend The Darkness, which comes out October 16, 2018. It’s one cold case that might prove too hot to handle for DI Hulda Hermannsdóttir, and you don’t want to miss it!

**Thank you NetGalley and Minotaur Books for the ARC to read in exchange for my fair and honest review.**

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26 thoughts on “Book Review: The Darkness by Ragnar Jónasson

    1. Aww, thanks Jenn! It was a fantastic book! I’m doing ok. It’s a blah day; everything hurts but I’m used to it. We finally went from 80 degrees to 60s so I think the change in temps hasn’t helped. I’m freezing all the time. I hope you are well too! ❤💞xoxo

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      1. Aww, yes the weather is fallish! I do love the lower temps, but cold and rain hurts. I hope you feel better soon! Have you tried a hot Epsom salt bath? Good medicine. 😚💕❤ Hope we can chat soon!

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      2. Me too! We had all the horrible rain from hurricane Michael last week and it’s been damp since then! Ugh. I’m ready for hurricane season to be over since we got hit with Florence and Michael. No, I never thought about an Epsom Salt bath. Good grief, lol. I have it sitting right by my tub too, lol. Thanks, Jenn!! I’ve been so preoccupied lately and stressed that I don’t know where my mind is half the time. Me too…I keep thinking about you!

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      3. Yes! We got hit with Micheal worse than we did with Florence and it was even worse because we had less notice that he was headed our way than we did with Flo. Plus, we already had all the flooding from Flo, so it just made it worse. Michael gave us so much rain and the winds were insane! We had a tree fall down in our street and hit a neighbors car; thankfully no one was hurt. Our grill-a huge propane grill was blown from one end of the deck to the other and fell over-I’d never seen anything like it! I felt like we were in Oz for a bit. The schools closed for two days last week because of all the power outages and storm damage…they closed with Flo too. I said I was glad we are homeschooling since the public school has already missed 4 days and it’s only Oct and they’re predicting a rough winter! We’ve just done our thing curled up on the couch, lol. Me too-I don’t mind storms, but hurricanes are scary. You too! I know!! ❤

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      4. My goodness. I just can’t believe that! That sounds scary. They are calling for a cold winter with tons of snow for us as well. It’s going to be interesting! That’s just one nice thing about homeschooling when it comes to weather for sure! I hope you guys are enjoying the homeschool life and you start feeling better. Talk soon. 💕😚🎃

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      5. It was insane! I’m hoping it’s the last of it but hurricane season isn’t over until November 😦 You’ll have way more snow than we will no matter what!! Lucky you since I hate snow, lol. It definitely is since snow days are fun but making them up never are! We are! She was doing her day when she woke up, but now she does some in the morning, some mid day, and now she’s doing her math for tomorrow right now, lol. She’s like all-over the place with her stuff. She practically tries to do her week in two days-I have to hide my lesson plan so she won’t keep working ahead. Or I have to keep adding stuff because she keeps wanting to do stuff! She only has to do a 5 hr day but she’d do a 10 if I let her…crazy kid. Thanks! I hope I do too! 🙂 ❤

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    1. It’s so good and very atmospheric, which is something I love about Nordic Noir. At least it’s only 3 books so not that many to follow. 😉😊 I’m a series person. I’m about to read book 23 in Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, #25 in the Stephanie Plum series, and #26 in the Alex Cross series, lol. I’ll follow them until they end and then I usually cry, Haha. And that’s just a few of the series I read…I guess this is just another one my list. I need to make a list to keep track! ❤😘

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      1. LOL, well the Stephanie Plum were fab the first 10 or so but have gone downhill since then with a few really good ones interspersed throughout. I really read them just to see if Stephanie can make up her mind about Morelli or Ranger, lol. I read up to maybe letter K in those and stopped. I just have so many series that I have started, haha.

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  1. This sounds like such a great read and I like the sound of Hulda. Its interesting to have a different kind of lead detective. I was wondering how the story would progress with her retirement but glad to hear that there are plans to develop her character even more and feature her younger years. Fab review!

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    1. It really is. I thought maybe she’d end up not retiring, so I was shocked he is telling her story in chronological reverse order but I really like that idea! Especially after what you learn in about her backstory in flashes here and there. It’s a great way to write the series. Thank you!!


    1. It did start out as a slow suspense, and it took a while to build up. I can see how you might not have connected. The ending was one that I’ve never seen before in a book. It was just crazy good the way it sets up the trilogy (it was no ending as good as The Craftsmen though!!). You might want to try it again since it’s good. How far did you read?


  2. Wonderful review Steph! Is this the same author that did the Snowblind series? (That I STILL need to read! 🙄) Iceland is such a magical place I was lucky enough to visit six years or so ago and it was unforgettable. They love their books too so I felt like it was my spiritual home!! 😂


    1. Thanks Beth! Yes! I need to read that series! You are so lucky! I bet it was so wonderful there. I’m definitely going one day. Lol! That’s fantastic…maybe we should move there? I don’t think I could handle the snow though…brrr! 😁❤

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