The Darkness by Ragnar Jonasson
Translated by Victoria Cribb
Hidden Iceland series #1
From my TBR pile
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.
The cover for this novel caught my eye over social media. Then I read all the awesome reviews from bloggers and decided, I had to buy it. Kate over at Bibliophile Book Club, can be very persuasive with novels she has loved. The end result, was a night of only 3hrs sleep! It is that addictive! I don’t know whether to blame Kate or the author, so I am just gonna have to roll with the mantra #SleepIsForWimps lol Either way, I absolutely loved this book and can’t recommend it highly enough!
Here are my thoughts on The Darkness. . . .
The novel has a thoroughly modern synopsis, the death of a refugee and the lack of police due care and attention. It is also the introduction of the authors new protagonist Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdottir. Hulda’s characterisation is brilliant! She comes across almost as an Icelandic Vera Stanhope. She is brash, close to retirement and doesn’t care what others think of her. Similar, to Vera, she has a past that slowly emerges over the course of the novel. I just absolutely loved Hulda. She is easily one of my favourite female protagonists of the year, and I am extremely picky when it comes to that kind of bold statement. I love complex characters with a backstory and for me Hulda ticks all the boxes.
The novel opens with Hulda informally interviewing a suspect in a hit and run. The suspect is a mother, who may/may not have committed a crime out of love for her son and her desire to protect him. (Ragnar Jonasson hits you in the feels #1)
There are a series of chapters that portray a mother and daughter relationship. You know the scenes are from the past due to the narrative. A mother fighting not to be separated from her young daughter. But you don’t become aware of who they are and their relevance to the story, until much later. The background plot, is incredibly moving and as a mother myself, It really pulled at my heartstrings.
(Ragnar Jonasson hits you in the feels #2)
The novel then introduces Hulda, she is approaching retirement and life in her 60s. She fears growing old alone and I began to wonder has Hulda sacrificed everything for her career? It is when she learns that her boss Magnus, has already replaced her (months earlier than necessary) with a ‘high-achiever’. That she has just two weeks left and then her job/office will be gone!
This is a bitter pill for Hulda to swallow.
‘Accepting your age was one thing; accepting retirement quite another’ – Hulda.
The cold case she chooses, is the case of a Russian refugee Elena who washed up as Vatnsleysustrond cove. The victim was just 27yrs old, the case received no media interest and was quickly marked as suicide.
That is until now. . . .
When Hulda assesses the case file, she finds evidence of lazy, unprofessional police work. She firmly believes the original investigating officer Alexander, had zero interest in the case and Hulda has no belief in his abilities as a detective.
‘Hulda knew that, if she didn’t seize this last chance to get to the bottom of the mystery, no one else would ever bother’
Hulda makes her way to Njardvik and the asylum hostel, which was Elena’s home prior to her death. The manager Dora, views the work, not as a ‘person centred service’ but as a ‘business opportunity’. There is an overall lack of concern for Elena’s welfare both before, and after death.
Nevertheless, Hudla persists, she certainly doesn’t suffer fools gladly.
‘That was the worst part – having no one who cared’
Hudla also approaches Elena’s immigration lawyer Albert Albertson. She learns that the day before her death, her application for asylum had been granted. So why would Elena suddenly commit suicide?
The plot thickens, as they say!
Elena’s past is explored. The isolated, lonely and dire situation refuges face, is laid bare. It makes for heart-breaking reading and it made me wonder how many real-life Elena’s exist out there all over the world? With no one who cares about their life or death?
(Ragnar Jonasson hits you in the feels #3)
Hudla’s past is also explored, it really adds depth to an already fascinating character. I am certainly not going to provide any spoilers. But Hudla is perhaps one of the most thought-out characters I have come across all year!!!!!
My best friend is a police officer, she has been for many years and she will be until she retires from working life. I firmly feel the author captured the very essence of what it is means to be a female police officer. The sacrifice, dedication and fight to survive in a male dominated occupation.
Although the novel is within the crime fiction genre. There are multiple examples of beautiful writing.
The following is one of my favourites. . . .
‘Time was like a concertina: one minute compressed, the next stretching out interminably’
This is the start of a fantastic trilogy. I cannot wait to read the next novel. 5* Genius