The Darkness by Ragnar Jónasson #BookReview #BlogTour

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.

I'm thrilled to be hosting the blog tour for The Darkness by Ragnar Jónasson today, many thanks to the author and Laura Nicol from publishers, Michael Joseph for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.
I loved Ragnar Jónasson's Dark Iceland books and The Darkness, first in his Hidden Iceland series was one of my most eagerly anticipated novels for 2018. The protagonist of the Dark Iceland books, Ari Thor was at the beginning of his police career but Hulda Hermannsdóttir is nearing the end of hers. She has only grudgingly accepted her forthcoming retirement in a few months time so is obviously dismayed when she is told her replacement has already arrived and her leaving date is being brought forward. She is horrified to learn her boss expects her to clear her desk immediately but arranges a stay of execution of sorts when she is told she has two weeks to investigate one last cold case. She immediately decides to follow up on the investigation into the death of a Russian asylum seeker, Elena. Her death is officially unsolved but unofficially has been accepted as a probable suicide; however, Hulda suspects the truth may be more sinister and believes the young woman deserves a proper investigation. Refugees and asylum seekers are scarcely out of the news of course and though Elena's death means she has become another statistic, Hulda's empathetic drive to solve the case restores her humanity as she determines that she shouldn't simply be the girl who came to Iceland and died.
While female detectives are hardly a rarity in crime fiction, it's much less common for books to feature a police officer in her sixties as the main protagonist. Ragnar Jónasson has skilfully twisted the oft trodden path of the grizzled older detective and in Hulda has created a thoroughly engaging character with a compelling back story. Institutionalised misogyny has meant her career hasn't progressed as it should and her male colleagues still don't always respect her valuable experience. That's not to say she's without flaws, indeed she makes some costly mistakes that don't just put her case in jeopardy. She is doggedly determined to solve the mystery - whatever it takes -  in the little time she has left, yet she is plagued by fears of loneliness as she tentatively approaches a potential new romance and it's this juxtaposition between her tenacity and her emotional vulnerability that makes her such a fascinating character.
If Hulda is the lead character then Iceland is a close second as the country becomes a vital part of the story - not just the physical landscape, evocatively described as it is - but the very essence of Iceland. This remote island with its brief few months of long summer evenings and the midnight sun of June soon giving way to the encroaching darkness is described here with an atmospheric intensity that becomes chilling and almost claustrophobic.
The writing is as beautiful and as intricate as I've come to expect from Ragnar Jónasson. The main story is told in the third person focusing on Hulda's investigation but there are also increasingly ominous chapters following an unidentified younger woman, and further chapters that are set in the past tell a bittersweet story.  There's a sense of melancholy throughout the book which means the tension builds almost imperceptibly until the narratives eventually combine and by the astonishing conclusion my pulse was racing.
The next two books in the Hidden Iceland series are told in reverse order and after being totally captivated by the contemporary thrills of The Darkness, I can't wait to discover more about Hulda's past in The Island and The Mist. The Darkness is a superb novel, bold, fresh and totally engrossing - I loved it!

The Darkness is published in the UK by Michael Joseph and can be purchased here. Don't miss the other stops on the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author
Ragnar Jónasson was born in Reykjavík, Iceland, where he works as a writer and a lawyer and teaches copyright law at Reykjavík University. He has previously worked on radio and television, including as a TV news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, and, from the age of seventeen, has translated fourteen of Agatha Christie's novels. He is an international Number One bestseller. 
The Darkness is the first novel in his Hidden Iceland series, to be 
followed by The Island and The Mist.

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