The Darkness by Ragnar Jónasson – Review
By Karl Hornsey
It’s only fair to say this to begin with. I’m a huge fan of Nordic Noir, as it has been coined in recent years, whether that be in the written word or the many TV series that have been produced, for good or bad, since The Killing took the country by storm. Therefore, the start of a new series of novels by Ragnar Jónsson was something of huge interest to me. And the first of those novels, The Darkness, doesn’t disappoint. In fact, it’s a page turner that I polished off in two sittings.
Jónasson first came to wider attention in 2015 with the start of his ‘Dark Iceland’ series, focusing on rookie policeman Ari Thor Arason, and from the titles, it’s easy to see how much he uses the geographical and meteorological conditions of his native land to craft his work – White Out, Snow Blind, Night Blind etc. You get the picture.
“Plausible and realistic”
The Darkness is the first in a new three-part series, called ‘The Hidden Iceland’; the twist being that the series is told in reverse order, with the next two books, The Island and The Mist, taking place decades earlier. It is ideas such as these that attract me to an author, playing around with a tried and trusted format, and being confident enough in their own abilities to do so.
The Darkness gripped me from the start and left me wanting to read the other two novels in the series right now, and not have to wait for them to be released. It draws the reader in, offering up enough red herrings and twists to leave you unsure as to what will happen next, while keeping proceedings plausible and realistic enough to believe in.
There is also a refreshing absence of the one thing that has so often left me disappointed in Nordic Noir thrillers – filler. Everything you read has a point and contributes to the story, leading to a tight plot set over the period of just three days.
“Keeps the reader in suspense”
The focus of the story is on soon-to-be-retired detective inspector Hulda Hermannsdottir, who is given the chance to tackle a cold case of her choosing before she shuffles off against her will to her retirement, pushed out in favour of the newer, fresher breed in the police force.
So far, so fairly standard. However, Jónasson melds together strands of Hulda’s life from across several decades, keeping the reader in suspense before letting them in on one secret at a time, building layer upon layer of plot and once again using the beauty and danger of the Icelandic countryside as an integral part of the story.
The author also avoids the trap of introducing too many characters just for the sake of throwing the reader off the scent, with everyone in the book there for a reason. Reading this while watching the snow fall outside certainly helped with the ambience, as Hulda races against the clock to catch a killer, knowing that she is seen as a relic of the past, soon to be forgotten and left to create a personal life that has been hit by tragedy down the years.
‘The Darkness’ by Ragnar Jónasson is published by Michael Joseph, £7.99 paperback