In the past year, I have been discovering and reading more and more Nordic noir authors, but this is my first Icelandic novel. I find Nordic noir different from the thrillers I am used to, for the plot, the atmosphere, the writing (compelling, but I think that some descriptions are too graphic and gruesome) and the names that I can’t pronounce. I was drawn to this author because I have been hearing a lot about him from other bloggers and I was really curious to see for myself and I have to say that I am sorry I haven’t read his novels before.
The protagonist of his latest novel is Detective Hulda Hermannsdottir. She is sixty-five years old and, even though she is a good detective and she is respected by her colleagues, she is forced into early retirement to make room for the youngest generation. Throughout the entire novel, the author explores in details Hulda’s feelings towards her retirement which she finds hard to accept as she can’t envisage a future in which she doesn’t work. She is been allowed, as her last job, to work on a cold case of her choice, so she decides to investigate the death of Elena, a 27-year-old refugee from Russia whose body was found in a cave. The detective who had investigated the death ruled it out as a suicide, but Hulda is convinced that there is something more to it.
I found the character of Hulda flawed, but very intriguing. She is strong and determined. When she puts her head into something she goes through it even if she has to compete not only with a younger generation who thinks she is now past her time, but also with her male colleagues who don’t think she is as smart as them. I liked how she fights for the weakest, not necessarily victims, even if it often leads her to trouble. And she has a painful and dark past that it slowly unravels through the novel, and it’s her past that made me want to read and found out more about this character.
The pace of the novel is not too fast, not too slow, the good amount to keep the suspense high and to keep you glued to the page. I really loved the evocative and atmospheric descriptions of the Icelandic landscape, with its white snow and frozen lakes that make you dream of hot chocolate and fireside (which, by the way, I think it’s the best way to read this book!)
The ending was a complete surprise, not at all what I expected. Without giving any spoilers away, it’s not the ending I wished for, but I think it fitted perfectly with the story and with the character of Hulda.
Thank you Michael Joseph for providing me with an earlier copy of the book.
THE DARKNESS is out now in the UK.