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
Buy on Amazon.com
Date Read: October 11, 2018 (e-arc)
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.
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.**