Friday, October 2, 2020

The Darkness by Ragnar Jónasson

At 64, Hulda Hermannsdóttir is not looking forward to retirement. Especially not the forced retirement she's now facing. After giving her all to the police force, she's been asked to leave to make room for a younger detective who needs her desk. But, after some negotiating, Hulda gains permission to use her final days looking in a cold case. 

The case she chooses: the death of a Russian immigrant. Ruled a suicide just one year ago, Hulda is certain the case has more to it. And she's right. She immediately surmises that the officer in charge of the investigation cut corners in order to close the case. But Hulda's digging isn't winning her any friends in the department. What's more, the case forces her to face some of her own inner demons she's long tried to suppress. 

This first in Hulda's series (Hidden Iceland) is an interesting read because, while it's the first in her series, it's actually the end of her career. The other two books (The Island and The Mist) in the series take part in the middle of and closer to the beginning of her career, before she has as much life and work experience under her belt. Tracking her story backwards is a novel approach.  

Hulda is a healthy middle aged woman, finally dating again after years of being a single widow. As the story progresses, she finally starts to look forward to days outside of the department. In fact, she's finally starting to feel some freedom from the things in her past that haunt her so. 

I really liked Hulda. She begins the book confident but damaged in ways that only become clear as the book progresses. The book does stand alone, but I guarantee that once you've been introduced to Hulda, you'll want to dive directly into her two other stories. The desire to know where she came from pulls at you through the entirety of the book, making it impossible to read just the one installment. 

The book features two sets of flashbacks, and it's not clear just how those stories all weave together until we start to get closer to the conclusion of the book. Don't worry, the pacing is great—this was a one day read for me start to finish!

I have to be honest in that it's not just Hulda and her case that are such a draw. The Darkness is set in Iceland, a place that looms large as setting! It's one that calls to me any time I see it in a book description, especially if the author calls it home as well. 

But unlike much of the other Nordic Noir fare that I've delved into of late, this series is by far less graphic. It's still got some pretty dark themes, but by no means as dark as most. In fact, these are much closer to classic crime novels than anything else. (Don't go thinking these are cozy by any means. Like I said, there are still pretty dark themes, overall.)

There's an article making the rounds today regarding binge reading, and I have to say that this series in particular is perfect for a binge read session! Like I said, you'll absolutely want to delve into book two just as soon as you turn the final pages. And since it's one of those, just one more chapter books (you know the ones), I'll bet you'll find it won't take you long. I'd suggest making sure you're prepared ahead of time, with both subsequent books queued up and ready to go :)

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

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