The Island by Ragnar Jónasson (tr. by Victoria Cribb) #BookReview #BlogTour

Four friends visit the island.

But only three return . . .

Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdóttir is sent to the isolated island of Elliðaey to investigate and soon finds haunting similarities with a previous case - a young woman found murdered ten years ago in the equally desolate Westfjords.

Is there a patient killer stalking these barren outposts?

As Hulda navigates a sinister game constructed of smoke and mirrors she is convinced that no one is telling the truth, including those closest to her. 

But who will crack first? And what secrets is the island hiding?

Haunting, suspenseful and as chilling as an Icelandic winter, The Island follows one woman's journey to find the truth hidden in the darkest shadows, and shine a light on her own dark past.

I'm thrilled to be hosting the blog tour for The Island today. Huge thanks to Ragnar Jónasson and Sriya Varadharajan from Michael Joseph for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

The Island is the second book in Ragnar Jónasson's Hidden Iceland series featuring Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdóttir. Unusually, the series follows a reverse order so in last year's The Darkness, Hulda was reaching the end of her career and in this book, she is in her middle years but already weighed down by her own tragedies and the realisation that she is never likely to progress as far as her abilities should have taken her; held back by the internalised misogyny in the police force. Although The Island can be read as a standalone, I'd recommend reading The Darkness first to truly appreciate the skillful construction of Hulda's story, with the little glimpses here into her future and undoubtedly nods to her past which will become clearer in the next book in the series, The Mist.
The Island immediately sets a chilling tone, with a prologue in which very little happens and yet it still manages to be really unsettling. Part One of the book is set in 1987 and is equally as unnerving, as a young couple embark on their first weekend away together. Again, little happens initially but there is still an overriding sense of imminent danger. We only discover a violent tragedy occurred at some point when the police are called to check on a young woman who hasn't been heard from for a few days. Hulda isn't involved in this investigation, as she realises that just being a man is more likely to guarantee promotion than her considerable experience. She is left in no doubt that the brusque and ambitious Lýdur is ahead of her and it is he who arrests the person suspected of murder and who is determined that justice will be done.
Ten years later, a group of friends arrange a reunion to remember their loss and plan a few days away on the remote island of Elliðaey but in a shocking twist of fate, another tragedy occurs and this time Hulda is called in to investigate. She senses that the three young people left behind are all hiding something and as the only inhabitants of the island, somebody must know the truth. The Island is not a fast-paced thriller, instead Hulda must use her perceptive intellect to discover what happened here and how it is connected to the events of a decade ago.
Ragnar Jónasson's enduring appreciation of Agatha Christie's novels is once again obvious, with a dogged detective using their insight into human nature to solve what is effectively a locked room mystery with a limited number of suspects. All the elements I love about his writing are present in The Island - his skill in conjuring up a location matched this time by the sense of time he evokes. It's 1997 so Hulda isn't yet tied to her mobile phone, IT is only just beginning its rise to ascendancy and the international banking crisis is years away. I really enjoyed the foreshadowing of what will soon become commonplace, even to the currently technology averse Hulda. There's the melancholic feeling I've come to expect from his books too - he doesn't write high octane thrillers, his stories are those that come from the tragedies which happen as a result of human failings and the intricate lies which people weave around themselves. Hulda must untangle the long-held secrets but she has her own dark memories and she is enveloped by a lonely sadness which makes her a fascinatingly enigmatic protagonist.
The Island is an immensely satisfying book which again underlines just how good Ragnar Jónasson is at creating complex and involving plots. The combination of a truly puzzling mystery, excellent characterisation and his mastery of setting the scene means that once more I was treated to a novel which captured my full attention from the first page to the ominous conclusion. Victoria Cribb's superb translation also deserves a mention, as the book flows naturally throughout allowing me to forget it was originally written in Icelandic. Highly recommended!

The Island is published in the UK by Michael Joseph, publishing links can be found 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.

About the Translator
Victoria Cribb is a freelance translator of Icelandic literature. Her translations of Icelandic authors published in English include crime novels by Arnaldur Indriðason, The Blue Fox and From the Mouth of the Whale by Sjón, and Stone Tree by Gyrðir Elíasson. She has an MA in Icelandic and Scandinavian Studies from UCL and a BPhil in Icelandic from the University of Iceland, and lived and worked in Reykjavík for a number of years as a publisher, journalist, and translator. She is currently completing a PhD in Old Icelandic at the University of Cambridge.