Today I’m sharing my thoughts on The Mist the third book in the Hidden Iceland series by Ragnar Jonasson. I love this series and have been really looking forward to catching up with Hulda again. But before we see what I thought, here’s what the book is about:
About the Book
1987. An isolated farm house in the east of Iceland.Available from: Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones | Googleplay | Apple Books
The snowstorm should have shut everybody out. But it didn’t.
The couple should never have let him in. But they did.
An unexpected guest, a liar, a killer. Not all will survive the night. And Detective Hulda will be haunted forever.
Well – this book is one hell of an emotional rollercoaster ride. As you may be aware, this series follows the life and investigations of Detective Hulda Hermannsdóttir, but not in chronological order. Much like the Dark Iceland series of books, Hidden Iceland plays out of sequence, so in some respects, part of what happens in this book you already know about. However, don’t be fooled. Actually seeing it play out, watching Hulda as she moves ever closer to the fateful day at Christmas in 1988 that changes her life completely, is something else. It leads to a strange blend of apprehension and frustration as you read, wondering how Hulda could not know what was happening. How we can all see what is to be inevitable, but still manages to come as a shock to the system when it finally happens. If you really don’t like to read your series out of order, then I recommend reading this one first as book one has some pretty major spoilers for book three. You have been warned.
Alongside the narrative of Hulda’s homelife we see her investigating a double murder at a remote farmhouse in eastern Iceland, along with the disappearance of a young woman last seen hitchhiking around the country on a gap year. Hulda is distracted, for reasons that will become apparent as you read, but this is a key moment for her and being able to solve the murder means proving something to not just her peers, but herself. I loved the way this kind of turbulent backstory played out during the investigation, how Hulda kept withdrawing into herself and thinking over things she could have said and done differently. It made the book feel authentic. That coupled with a natural reaction to the death she saw all around her made for a gripping and heartbreaking read.
The story is set over two periods – the days leading up to Christmas, in which most of the action takes place, and a couple of months later in which Hulda is sent to complete the investigation. the distinction between the two stories is clear, even with action set between Hulda’s home and that of the two victims. I love the way Ragnar Jónasson switches between the two, using two very different methods to create tension in both settings. One is based around a slow building sense of dread that is hard to define, but you can just feel that churning feeling as HUlda’s story reaches its climax. The other is set off against the overwhelming feeling of isolation that is experienced by Erla and Einar, the two farm owners who meet a very unfortunate fate. There is that whole feeling of being cut off, not only by the remote nature of the farm, something captured perfectly in the narrative, but also by the weather, a particularly heavy snowstorm making sure that no one is able to get in, or out, of the farm. The author has a real skill when creating setting, making it feel so real that you want to bury yourself in a blanket just to avoid catching a chill as you read. He uses that to great effect in this book, making the story atmospheric and laced with a real sense of foreboding.
How all the individual stories pull together is a real thing of skill and very satisfying. I love that this is a series that doesn’t need to be heavy on graphic detail to still make readers feel uncomfortable. And I found myself completely drawn into the story, finishing the book in a matter of hours, something which, at the moment, is very rare indeed. Another brilliant addition to the series.
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, from the age of seventeen has translated fourteen of Agatha Christie’s novels. He is an international Number One bestseller.
Victoria Cribb (Translator)
Victoria Cribb studied and worked in Iceland for many years. She has translated more than 25 novels from the Icelandic and, in 2017, she received the Orðstír honorary translation award for services to Icelandic literature.