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review 2018-03-21 20:08
A Nordic noir thriller with two fascinating protagonists, D.I. Hulda Hermannsdóttir and Iceland.
The Darkness - Ragnar Jónasson

Thanks to NetGalley and to Michael Joseph for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

I’ve followed with interest the rise in popularity of the Nordic/ Scandinavian Thrillers in recent years, although I have read random titles rather than becoming a dedicated fan of any single writer. (I’ve also watched quite a few of the crime TV series produced in those countries and I’ve particularly enjoyed Wallander, The Bridge, and The Killing). This is the first novel I read by Ragnar Jónasson, although I suspect it won’t be the last.

The novel contains some familiar elements, although with interesting variations. The main character, Hulda, a Detective Inspector, that works in Reykjavík, is 64 and on her way to retirement. She is surprised by the news that this retirement has been brought forward, and, as an afterthought to keep her quiet, her boss tells her she can work on a cold case of her choice. She chooses the apparent suicide of a Russian girl, an asylum seeker because she mistrusts the lead investigator. The novel, written in the third person, mostly from Hulda’s point of view, follows her last three days in the force. I say mostly because there are other fragments that are told from other characters’ points of view, although at first, it is not that clear who they are. We come to understand how they relate to the main story later, but I must clarify that they are clearly distinct, easy to follow, and do not cause any confusion. They do provide additional information, a different perspective, and they help us understand the story and the characters more fully (and yes, they might also mislead us a tiny bit), although I suspect some readers might catch on faster than others as to their true relevance.

Hulda is a known standard of the genre: the old detective forced to leave the job that is determined to solve one last case before retirement. Only, in this case, she is a woman, and she does reflect on how difficult things have been for her because she is a woman, glass ceiling and all. She does share some of the other attributes sometimes typical of these characters: she is very good but not that very well liked; she has to work alone because she is not a favourite among the other detectives; she resents her younger boss and many of her teammates; she is effective but might bend the rules slightly; she is reserved and has suffered tragedies in her life… The author is very good at creating a very compelling character and then making us question our judgment. At least in my case, I really liked Hulda to begin with, but after a while, I realised that she might be one of those favourites of mine, an unreliable narrator (or, although not directly a narrator, her point of view is unreliable). She makes decisions that are morally questionable; she drinks a bit too much; and well… I am keeping my mouth shut. My feelings for this character went from really liking her, to not being so sure, to not liking her very much, and then… This change in opinion and perception is cleverly achieved and extremely well done, and it reminded me of books like We Need to Talk about Kevin (not the story itself, but the way the writer slowly makes us empathise with a character to later pull the rug from under our feet).

The story is dark in more ways than one. As I said, there are morally grey areas (or even quite dark): the subject matter and the fact that a young asylum seeker and her death are not considered important and have been all but forgotten a year down the line (unfortunately that rings true), Hulda’s own life and the secrets she keeps, and Iceland. Although there is not a great deal of violence (and definitely not explicit), there is a certain unsettling air and a cold and menacing atmosphere, that comes in part from Hulda’s paranoia and her personality (suspicious and mistrustful), but goes beyond it. The setting is very important and it contributes to the story and its effect on the reader. Iceland is a character in its own right. The descriptions of the many locations in the book create a picture in the reader’s mind and help understand how important the place is to the mood, the characters, and their way of life. A place where light and darkness rule people’s lives, and where the inhabitants have adapted to conditions many of us would find difficult and hostile. The title is apt for many reasons (as we learn as we read on). It is a noir novel, where nobody is exactly as they appear at first, and where red herrings, false clues, and side-stories muddy the storyline, adding layers of complexity to what appears straightforward, at first.

The writing is fluid, and versatile, providing different registers and clearly distinct voices for the different aspects of the story and the varied points of view, and although it is a translation, it is well-written and the style fits in perfectly the content. It is not the usual fast-paced thriller, but one that builds up tension and organically incorporates the psychology of the characters and the setting into the story.

A couple of examples:

Time was like a concertina: one minute compressed, the next stretching out interminably.

‘She’s being deported. It happens. You know, it’s a bit like those games of musical chairs you play as a kid. The music starts, everyone gets up and walks in a circle and when the music stops, one of the chairs is taken away and someone’s unlucky.’

The ending… I will not talk in detail about it but although perhaps not unexpected, is a bit of a shocker.

A great (and not long) novel for lovers of Nordic thrillers, or anybody who enjoys thrillers that deviate from the norm. I’d also recommend it to anybody intrigued by Iceland and unreliable narrators. And I’d also recommend it to authors always intrigued by other authors’ technique and voice. I intend to keep reading the series. And enjoying it.

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review 2017-05-14 01:42
Should've Known Better - Cassandra Carr
  One of Cassandra Carr's best stories. She gets these characters right as they deal with timely incidences in their lives. Sarah does not want to go public with their relationship which causes problems for Sebastian.

I like the way the situation was handled. I thought it was well done and sensitively handled. I could understand both sides though not agree with Sarah and her reasoning. She needed to decide what was more important. When she did decide she almost lost what was most important. I am glad they were able to work it out.
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review 2017-01-28 00:00
Policed: An Older Man Younger Woman Romance
Policed: An Older Man Younger Woman Roma... Policed: An Older Man Younger Woman Romance - Flora Ferrari This blurb is HILARIOUS!!

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review 2016-07-29 16:22
Bedding the Babysitter - Ava Sterling
  Jenna, the babysitter, has decided to seduce Shane, the father. She is attracted to the older man and wants to be more to him than the babysitter. Will she get her wish?

This is a quick sexy read. Jenna is young but experienced. Shane does seem to be a lot older than her. I wish he were a little closer to her age. He does ask her about their ages but Jenna realizes that men her age have more maturing to do and she does not want bad experiences. Once Shane is convinced that Jenna is serious so is he. I liked that he thought of the future—short term as well as long term. I liked these characters and this short story.
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text 2016-02-01 11:32
Another Great Kresley Cole Series
If You Dare - Kresley Cole

Wow! This woman, Ms. Kresley Cole, can write anything. I began reading her action packed-under and above the covers- Immortals After Dark series many years ago. I read quite a few, then put her books on hold for a while. I came back last year and have nearly completed IAD. As we Geminis love to do, we read at least five books at one time (depending upon our mood). In doing this, I thought I would try Ms. Cole's earlier works after having recently completed her new-amazing-contemporary erotica series, The Game Makers. Knowing how great she handled Contemporary in addition to Paranormal Romance, I had faith that her earlier works-The MacCarrik Brothers trilogy- would be fantastic. Well, I can honestly say that I placed my faith in good hands because this series, so far, is really wonderful. For those who like non-paranormal romance, don't mind period pieces with minimal historical details, and more detailed erotic scenes with brawny, sensual, loving, alpha-males who happen to be Kilt wearers, then this is your series. This book of three, is well written, has a good story line, is erotic but tasteful, and is an easy read! I highly recommend it. There is just a special way that Ms. Cole, and only Ms. Cole, writes sex scenes that are the most unique and erotic in general romance. I have never read anyone else that writes them like she does. It's strange because the scenes are so normal and vanilla, but they make you puddle on the floor every time. And oh yeah, did I mention there's an actual plot that takes up most of the book! I know, right?! Amazing how now we can get a two-for-one deal in today's literature. This book is indeed a "kilt lifter" not a " bodice ripper." Just to clarify ;) But not a cheesy Harlequin; one of few genres I detest vehemently. Yes, there is a clear distinction. So, check this first book out via Overdrive, it's free! You can't go wrong with that, especially if you are new to her works. Enjoy what's under the kilt, I mean cover ;)

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