Publication: 15th March 2018 from Michael Joseph
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.
I’m a huge fan of Ragnar Jonasson; have been ever since I was lucky enough to read the first in his Detective Ari Thor series.
So it was with a real sense of glee that I discovered that the first book in his new series – Dark Iceland – features a female detective on the brink of retirement. I just love it when an author invests in an older female protagonist and with D.I. Hulda Hermannsdóttir, Jonasson has got it just right.
Hulda is a diligent and more than competent detective but she is also an older woman who has not thrived in a male dominated environment where she has never been ‘one of the boys’ and though things are changing for women in the Reykjavik police force, those changes have come too late for Hulda, who has been repeatedly passed over for promotion in favour of less able male detectives.
She is pondering life after the police force when she finds out that even the choice of when to retire is to be taken out of her hands and her retirement date is brought forward without any reference to what she wants.
So she puts her foot down and says that she will go, but wants some time to transition, despite the fact that her current caseload has already been re-allocated. So with a bit of arm twisting, she gets her boss to agree a stay of execution and the chance to work on the cold case of her choice.
One such case has been in her mind for a while. A young female asylum seeker from Russia was found dead on the seaweed covered rocks in Vatnsleysuströnd; the death ruled a suicide. That decision never sat easily with Hulda and she resolves to get to the bottom of the case in the short time she has left.
It is not long before Hulda discovers that suicide does not make any sense as her victim had been granted asylum and she knew it. Hulda knows that this was a murder and when she finds that Elena was not the only young woman to go missing from the hostel the asylum seekers were staying in, she sets out to get to the truth.
The Darkness is told in three strands; the murder investigation, a mother’s story of the hardships of raising an illegitimate child and a young woman’s disastrous journey into the Iceland’s isolated and snow covered terrain. These strands are deftly woven together by Jonasson and give an added dimension to the central investigation.
I love that Hulda means hidden woman, and that sense of impending surprise about her is maintained throughout the book, even until it’s astonishing and dark ending.
While there is a real sense of darkness to all the themes in this book, what I missed was the same depth of description of Iceland and the very real sense of beauty entwined with a taste of the claustrophobia and oppression of the geography of Iceland that you get from his other books. It is this sense of place that feels just a wee bit less tangible to me and I would have liked more of that darkness to permeate the book.
About Ragnar Jonasson
Ragnar was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, where he works as a writer and a lawyer. He also teaches copyright law at Reykjavik University and has previously worked on radio and television, including as a TV-news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.
He is the award winning author of the international bestselling Dark Iceland series.
His debut Snowblind, first in the Dark Iceland series, went to number one in the Amazon Kindle charts shortly after publication. The book was also a no. 1 Amazon Kindle bestseller in Australia.The second book in the series, Nightblind, also became a no. 1 Amazon Kindle bestseller in Australia.
Ragnar is the winner of the Mörda Dead Good Reader Award 2016 for Nightblind.
Snowblind was selected by The Independent as one of the best crime novels of 2015 in the UK and it has also been on best seller lists in France.
Ragnar is a member of the UK Crime Writers’ Association (CWA). He is also the co-founder of the Reykjavik international crime writing festival Iceland Noir.
From the age of 17, Ragnar translated 14 Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic.
Follow Ragnar Jonasson on @ragnarjo