"It's always the same problem with you--a total failure to collaborate," gripes Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdóttir's boss at the Reykjavík police department. But how can Hulda be a team player when she works at a boys' club that holds her gender and age against her?
As The Darkness begins, Hulda is on the brink of 65 and being shoved into retirement to make room for a (younger, male) successor. Her boss has reallocated her workload but grants Hulda two weeks to solve a cold case of her choosing. One of them is running a temperature: the case of a Russian woman who came to Iceland seeking asylum and ended up dead on the beach a year earlier. The pathologist's report concluded death by drowning, and the detective on the case at the time promoted the idea of suicide--hard for Hulda to square with the injuries found on the corpse.
The flinty Hulda is a breath of fresh Icelandic air: while sympathetic, she lacks quirkiness, genius, fearlessness or any other stock detective trait. Chapters from her point of view run alongside two separate storylines, each set in the past and from the perspective of key players in her case and in her fraught family life. Ragnar Jonasson, author of Snowblind and other thrillers, pulls everything together for a conclusion that some readers may find unorthodox, although hardly anyone will have seen it coming. Hulda enthusiasts can look forward to the promised follow-up titles in Jonasson's Hidden Iceland trilogy. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer