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The Darkness

The Darkness
Ragnar Jónasson
Penguin Random House
English translations
Review Author
Björn Halldórsson

(Dimma, 2015)

In The Darkness, Ragnar Jónasson lays to rest stalwart Siglufjörður policeman Ari Þór (for now at least) and introduces us to a new and very different protagonist: Detective Hulda Hermannsdóttir; sixty-five, widowed and facing retirement.

Although weary after her decades struggling under the glass ceiling of the Reykjavík Police Force, it still comes as a shock to Hulda when she is asked to take early retirement and release her caseload to her replacement – a much younger man. As meagre compensation, her supervisor – another man who is decades her junior and has far less experience on the force – gives her permission to root around in the precinct’s cold case files, mostly just to keep her occupied while she runs out the clock on her final week on the job. Hulda immediately knows which case she wants to look at: the death of a young Russian woman, an asylum seeker, whose body was discovered in the surf near the town of Vík í Mýrdal a mere year ago. The woman’s death was determined a suicide, but something has been bothering Hulda about the case – not the least the leading investigative officer’s lacklustre efforts to find the cause of the young immigrant’s death.

Ragnar Jónasson is on completely new ground in this first book in a new series and seems to relish the chance to shake up his usual formulas and come at the crime novel from a different angle. The Darkness twists and subverts the traditions of the detective genre in a way that even the savviest crime fiction enthusiast won’t see coming, but the book’s major strength is Hulda herself; an older woman with a hard life behind her whom everybody tends to pass over and underestimate.