"The Darkness" is original, compelling, unforgiving and completely believable. This is Scandi-Noir at its best.
I passed on Ragnar Jonasson's Dark Iceland series after reading "Snowblind". I found the detective too bland and the plot too much of a stretch.
His new series, "Hidden Iceland" fixes all that.
The main character is complex, easy to believe in and empathise with but with some serious flaws and deep scars that make her intriguing to discover. The plot is both darker and more credible than in "Snowblind". The storytelling, which moves skillfully along multiple timelines and from multiple, initially unnamed, points of view is perfectly structured to feed tension, curiosity and empathy with each chapter so that, by the end, we have a rich and textured understanding of the lives of the four women who are the main focus of the book.
One of the things that makes this first-in-a-series book original is that the main character, Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdóttir is sixty-four years old and about to retire, rather reluctantly, after a successful career in the Icelandic police which has included some high profile cases and a collision with the glass ceiling. I liked the realism built into Hulda's response to being confronted with retirement, the physical realities of getting older and the challenges of building a future when your career is over and you live alone. There's no "golden years" gloss here, just a review of the possible and the inevitable.
What I liked most about this book is that the main mystery being exposed is not the cold case of a young Russian woman asylum seeker who was found dead on a beach, but the mystery of Hulda herself. Hulda has a complicated history which is slowly and cleverly revealed as the plot unfolds.
The name Hulda means hidden, muffled or concealed. It is a name chosen with care. Nothing about Hulda is what it seems. Discovering the truth about Hulda changes everything in the novel.
Hulda's daughter plays a key role in the story. Her name is Dimma which translates as darkness. Dimma is also the title of the novel in Icelandic. The story really is one of slowly spreading darkness.
I was very impressed with "The Darkness" and I'm looking forward to reading, "The Island", the second book in the series once it's available as an English language audiobook.
I listened to the audiobook version of "The Darkness" which was narrated by Amanda Redman, who I think was a perfect choice.