Good grief, what was that! I’m in shock from this book. With how gripping it was and from the ending!
Ragnar Jonasson is an Icelandic author and I first came across him with his debut novel Snow Blind which I have previously reviewed on my blog. I just fancied a non UK crime writer as I was fed up with the procedural inaccuracies that made me angry and caused a fairly stressful read! So one day in Stanfords in Covent Garden I was in the Scandinavian section and found Ragnar. Haven’t looked back!
The Darkness has a 64 year female protagonist, Hulda, who is close to retiring from her long career with the Reykjavik police. The book follows her during her last investigation which revolves around the mysterious death of a young Russian asylum seeker.
Hulda is a loner and pretty lonely to be honest. Her husband died some years ago, aged 52 and there are scant mentions of her daughter. Hulda is a career police officer though her passion for the job is about seeking justice for the vulnerable rather than being part of the group. She basically doesn’t get on with anyone and is pretty bitter about the male clique that she feels exists around her. Men playing golf and getting promoted by their mates whilst she does a good job and gets over-looked.
I totally sympathise with her!
At the start of the story Hulda is summoned by her boss, Magnus, who tells her that her replacement has been recruited and will be here in 2 weeks so she should tidy out her desk and take early retirement. She thinks she still has months left and is shocked by this change to her plans, particularly because she really has nothing happy to look forward to. She lives alone in a block of flats having had to sell her beautiful home by the sea after the death of her husband. Her low state pension and no savings does not give her anything to look forward to. She is in the early stages of a relationship with a man she has met in her walking group but it is very early stages and she is clearly nervous about progressing.
Hulda protests the need to retire early and Magnus grants her another few weeks suggesting that maybe she review an old case. She knows exactly the one because she thought the initial investigation was appalling and shoddy and that the detective that ran it is one of those cronies that has been over promoted.
She doesn’t advise Magnus which case she is taking on and just sets about reviewing it. Visiting the asylum centre where the dead girl had lived prior to her body being discovered, visiting with her asylum solicitor, interpreter and the police officer that attended the discovery of her body.
No one seems very forthcoming. Everyone seems like they have something to hide.
Perhaps Holda has lost sight of what good police work is about. Perhaps Holda should have followed her instincts.
I was blown away by this book. I was pleased to have a female protagonist and an aged one. How unusual is that? I definitely understood how Holda felt in the male dominated police force, having been there myself. My goodness I left at 40 completely disillusioned with the buddy promotion system, how on earth would I have behaved at 64? No wonder she is bitter and cynical and a bit irrational. She’s done well not to let rip until now! The story is set over only a few days and the pace of that kept me turning the pages. I genuinely couldn’t put this book down. Not only that but it was an easy read. I liked Holda, I felt sympathy for her. I thought she was tenacious but human. I could tell why her colleagues didn’t like her much. She was a bit like me. As everyone else is useless it’s best to get on with it by yourself and do the job well. Bless her!
I really like the author and his books are definitely improving with each release. I love the landscape in the books, all set in snowy and dismal Iceland with it’s weird weather and volcanic vistas. Totally the setting for some seriously crazy murderers to live, though in reality not that many happen of course.
One of the things I like with Jonassons’ work is the comment he always passes on Icelandic culture, making mention in this book of the financial crisis but also the import export relationship Iceland had with Eastern European countries. I find it really interesting to read about the different things that have happened historically in the country, knowing as little as I do about it. In his first book I found reading about the Cod Wars and the disappearance of the herring fascinating.
This is one of the most shocking books I have read this year. I won’t add any spoilers and I suggest you don’t read any, if you can avoid them! The ending will take your breath away.
Highly recommended crime fiction novel. Yeah!