Thirty Days of Darkness by Jenny Lund Madsen, trns by Megan Turney

Today I am sharing my thoughts on Thirty Days of Darkness by Jenny Lund Madsen, one of #TeamOrenda’s new authors. Always love to discover new authors in translation. My thanks to Karen Sullivan for sending the advance copy and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the tour invite. Here’s what the book’s all about:

Source: Advance Reader Copy
Release Date: 25 May 2023
Publisher: Orenda Books

About the Book

A Danish literary author is challenged to write a crime novel in thirty days, travelling to a small village in Iceland for inspiration, and then a body appears … an atmospheric, darkly funny, twisty debut thriller, first in an addictive new series.

Copenhagen author Hannah is the darling of the literary community and her novels have achieved massive critical acclaim. But nobody actually reads them, and frustrated by writer’s block, Hannah has the feeling that she’s doing something wrong.

When she expresses her contempt for genre fiction, Hanna is publicly challenged to write a crime novel in thirty days. Scared that she will lose face, she accepts, and her editor sends her to Húsafjöður – a quiet, tight-knit village in Iceland, filled with colorful local characters – for inspiration.

But two days after her arrival, the body of a fisherman’s young son is pulled from the water … and what begins as a search for plot material quickly turns into a messy and dangerous investigation that threatens to uncover secrets that put everything at risk … including Hannah.

Atmospheric, dramatic and full of nerve-jangling twists and turns, Thirty Days of Darkness is a darkly funny, unsettling debut thriller that marks the start of a breathtaking new series.

My Thoughts

I do love to discover new authors and Orenda Books are bringing us so many treats this year I’m like a kid in a sweet shop. with Thirty Days of Darkness we get a kind of two for one deal as not only did I get an introduction to the work of Jenny Lund Madsen, but I also got to meet her protagonist, Hannah Krause-Bendix who is also an author. Hannah writes literary fiction. Hannah thinks commercial fiction is superficial and pointless. Hannah thinks that anyone can write a crime novel as they are very easy and, due to her extraordinary talent, could just bang one out in 30 days.

Hannah is an idiot and also suffering from writers block. Her bet with fellow author, Jørn Jensen, bears all the hallmarks of a disaster waiting to happen. But as idiot’s go, Hannah really did grow on me, and the impending disaster turns out to be far more intense than anyone could have imagined. Travelling to Iceland to gain peace and perspective, Hannah finds herself inspired by the death of a local teenager, a boy whose murder investigation she finds herself caught up in – with potentially deadly results.

I really enjoyed this book. There’s a kind of ‘Murder She Wrote’ vibe to it all, with the author turned amateur detective angle, albeit that Hannah, whilst quite observant, is far more inept than Jessica Fletcher. She’s just as big a magnet for trouble though and when trouble finds her, it likes to play a merry game. Fun for us as readers, a bit less fun for our protagonist. This is a classic murder mystery case, perhaps slightly too atmospheric and dark to be cost crime, but blending the suspense and intrigue with a good dose of humour, often at Hannah’s expense.

Whilst Hannah’s initial snobbery about commercial fiction, and her temporary home in Iceland, is a little off putting, and she is not always the most likeable of characters, there is something about her that is compelling, and the banter between her and Jørn really does make for some great scenes. She is believable (and we’ve probably all seen similar literature snobs on social media) and Jenny Lund Madsen has done a brilliant job of creating a character who can infuriate and amuse within a few short lines. In spite of everything, there is a heart lurking (somewhere) under her cool exterior and, the occasional (frequent) misjudgement aside, she’s actually the kind of person I enjoyed spending time with, and her enthusiasm for the mystery really came through in the narrative, drawing me deeper into the story. In fact, characters as a whole are brought to life brilliantly, painting a picture of the community and the various personalities that inhabit it, be they in heightened states of madness or grief.

The case itself is perplexing, the author pulling countless suspects into our path, including Hannah’s host, and the victims Aunt, Ella. The clues are slowly and carefully revealed, but in a small, close-knit, town like Húsafjöður, nothing stays a quiet for long, and it’s fair to say that conflict has a way of finding Hannah. I loved the way on which Jenny Lund Madsen brings the whole story to life. Setting is key and the town’s short days and very long nights add to the sense of unease that ebbs and flows like the tide. The author keeps the action and the story flowing, and the tension high, especially towards the end which is as filled with emotion as it is high drama. It’s a fitting conclusion to a story that is underpinned by loss. But as to whether Hannah is able to win her bet with Jørn, you’ll only know if you read the book.

A big thank you to translator Megan Turney who has brought the author’s words to life, capturing all subtle touches and the the highs, lows, laughter and grief that infuse the story. Without you, I wouldn’t know what a fabulous book this is.

If you like a classic mystery with characters who will get your dander up just as quickly as they entertain, that is packed with tension, surprises and atmospheric setting, then this books is highly recommended.

About the Author

Jenny Lund Madsen is one of Denmark’s most acclaimed scriptwriters (including the international hits Rita and Follow the Money) and is known as an advocate for better representation for sexual and ethnic minorities in Danish TV and film. She recently made her debut as a playwright with the critically acclaimed Audition (Aarhus Teater) and her debut literary thriller, Thirty Days of Darkness, first in an addictive new series, won the Harald Mogensen Prize for Best Danish Crime Novel of the year and was shortlisted for the coveted Glass Key Award. She lives in Denmark with her young family.

About the Translator

Megan Turney is originally from the West Midlands, and after having spent several years working back and forth between the UK and the Hardanger region of Norway, she is now based in Edinburgh, working as a commercial and literary translator and editor. She was the recipient of the National Centre for Writing’s 2019 Emerging Translator Mentorship in Norwegian, and is a published science fiction critic. She holds an MA (Hons) in Scandinavian Studies and English Literature from the University of Edinburgh, as well as an MA in Translation and Interpreting Studies from the University of Manchester.

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