The Darkness by Ragnar Jonasson


I was excited to receive a copy of The Darkness in the May crime and mystery box from My Chronicle Book Box. I was already familiar with Ragnar Jonasson’s work, having read and enjoyed five books from his Dark Iceland series. With this in mind, I was excited about reading this book, which is the first in the Hidden Iceland series.

In this novel, we are introduced to Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdottir, who we first see in the process of interviewing a suspect in connection with a serious crime. Aged sixty-four, Hulda has had a long and successful career as part of the Reykjavik police force, respected by her colleagues. But with her retirement looming, Hulda is starting to dread the future, and is left to consider the frightening prospect of growing old alone. To add to this, she is haunted by memories from her past that linger in her mind, dark memories that threaten to come to the surface. Events begin to spiral out of control when Hulda is forced into early retirement, as she ends up facing her demons earlier than she may have expected. Keen to stay in her job for a little while longer, but unable to pursue her current cases, she is instead given the chance to pick up a cold case of her choice, a long forgotten crime for which she has only a couple of weeks to resolve. She opts to look into the circumstances surrounding the death of a Russian woman found washed on an Icelandic shore. Originally ruled as suicide, it was a case closed over a year ago, but Hulda senses there is more to the case than meets the eye, and sets out to get to the bottom of the death, all whilst trying to come to terms with her own life, her impending retirement, her loneliness, and her past.

It didn’t take me long to get into this story and from the opening chapters I was gripped. The plot itself was an intriguing one, featuring a mysterious death in an unforgiving landscape. I also found Hulda to be an interesting character, whom I was interested in finding more about. There are various threads to this story which are interwoven to create a gripping and atmospheric read. Along the way we see Hulda as she embarks on her investigation, in addition to seeing the perspective of a mother struggling to bring up her child, and a woman on an adventure who finds herself out of her comfort zone, and in unfamiliar territory. These threads help to build up a complex tale which had me hooked, and as with other Jonasson novels I have read the setting is vividly portrayed which adds to the chilling tone of the novel, and helped create the sense of isolation for these characters in varying ways. I finished reading The Darkness in one day, as I was keen to get to the bottom of the mysteries both past and present. And there were twists and turns along the way, as we get a sense that all is not as it seems, and there are more to the characters than first thought. And as for its conclusion, it was one that took me by surprise, and has left me eager to read the next book in this series.

I really enjoyed reading The Darkness, and found it to be a gripping and atmospheric thriller which had me hooked until the final page. It is a perfectly paced story in which we uncover the truth behind a dark crime, alongside the darkness which shadows its protagonist.

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