Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for the first book in the new Hidden Iceland series from Ragnar Jónasson, The Darkness which is released into the wild today. Happy publication day Ragnar – I hope you have a great one. I’ve been a big fan of Ragnar Jónasson’s Dark Iceland series and Ari Thor, so I’ve been looking forward to reading this since pre-ordering the book about a year ago, Yep. That keen. I’ll share my thoughts in a few moments after we’ve seen what the book is all about.
About the Book
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.
Well … This book has taken me a bit by surprise to be fair. I wasn’t expecting that ending, that’s for sure. With all of the hallmark elements which typify Ragnar Jonasson’s writing, the brilliant use of setting, the quiet development of plot through pace, and characters that you can’t help but be engaged by, the Hidden Iceland series looks set to be another corker. So glad I already have book two on preorder (not out until next year but I will be patient).
While Ari Thor was a man very much at the start of his career with the police when we first met him in Snow Blind, Hulda Hermannsdóttir is very (very) much at the end of hers. Set for retirement by year end, she finds her time with the Police brought to a very abrupt close when her boss tells her that her replacement is due to start and she is surplus to requirements. Upon her insistence he offers her the chance to review a cold case of her choosing, little expecting she will actually do it. Hulda takes him at his word, choosing a case which has played on her conscience for over a year, one which a colleague and former rival failed to resolve to her satisfaction.
Now I don’t want to go into plot much more than that as the blurb tells you all you need to know. But hopefully you can tell from this that Hulda is not a woman who is looking forward to retirement. On her own since her husband died, she has little other than work to occupy her mind. There is a suggestion of a potential love interest, an avenue which she hasn’t properly explored but really the woman lives for her work. I really grew to like Hulda and could understand her frustration at being forced into retiring but also her reluctance to let the case go, no matter how much trouble it brought her, and boy does it ever. She is tenacious if a little distracted, but her gradual acceptance of her lot does lead her to make rash decisions, ones she may come to regret.
Ragnar Jonasson has a real knack for creating believable and loveable (and detestable) characters, and for hiding the guilty party in plain sight, something he does to perfection once again in this book. He makes the people live and breathe, captures their fears, preoccupations and in some cases perhaps neuroses brilliantly, and enables the reader to feel a part of the action. And by action, as is typical of the writing style, it is not fast paced, high stakes, car chase kind of action and yet, through the simplicity of the style, the complexity of the case and the creation of tension which slowly builds throughout, he will still have you on the edge of your seat by the end, scarcely able to believe what you are reading. Loved it,
For me perhaps the greatest character of all, aside from Hulda who I loved and can’t wait to hear more from … the most important protagonist in this story, is Iceland. The way in which the author paints the landscape, using the weather, both visual and audio clues, in which to create both atmosphere and perhaps even a little suspense, is superb. The simple choices he makes on where to set the key scenes of the book really make the story come alive. Also the choice of narrative style, the fragments of story told from the perspective of unidentified young women, add a layer of mystery to the book as you try to figure who they are and how they fit into the tale. All of it, including the main body of the book which follows Hulda’s investigation, makes for a brilliant and engaging read which had me hooked from the first page to the very last.
Do I really have to wait a year for the next book? Seriously – that is just plain cruel.
So if you are a fan of the Dark Iceland series, or even if you just want to read a brilliant book, with an intriguing mystery at its heart, where setting is as important as plotlines, then pick up The Darkness. For an introduction to the wonderful work of Ragnar Jonasson, I have to say it’d be a pretty bloody good place to start.
My thanks to publishers Michael Joseph for providing an advance copy of the book for review. It is available from today via the following retailers:
About the Author
Ragnar Jónasson was born in Reykjavík, Iceland, where he works as a writer and a lawyer and teaches copyright law at Reykjavík University. He has previously worked on radio and television, including as a TV news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, and he has, from the age of seventeen onwards, translated fourteen of Agatha Christie’s novels. He is an international number one bestselling author.
The Darkness is the first novel in his Hidden Iceland series, to be followed by The Island and The Mist.
Do make sure to check out some of the other brilliant blogs taking part in the tour