The second in the Dark Iceland series, after The Darkness, this is an utterly engrossing tale of two murders, exactly a decade apart. The first was solved by our police officer heroine Hulda Hermansdóttir’s colleague, Lydur (now her superior.) The accused – I won’t say who it was – committed suicide in custody, sealing belief in their guilt.
Ten years on, the brother, Dagur, and close friends (Benedikt, Alexandra, and Klara) of the victim, Katla, travel to the uninhabited island of Ellidaey for a reunion – but only three make it to the end of the weekend. As Hulda digs into the background of those present, she finds out about the original murder, and is convinced the answers to her case lie somewhere in that investigation – causing her to bump heads with Lydur, who definitely doesn’t want his findings examined too closely. That case was also primarily responsible for him climbing up the promotional ladder above the diligent Hulda, who also suffered due to the institutional sexism still ingrained in the Icelandic police at that time. (The first murder occurred in 1987, the second in ‘97.)
To be honest, a five word review would perfectly sum up what I thought of The Island – I LOVED THIS BOOK! Jónasson (whose Dark Iceland series with Orenda Books has been a massive hit, and rightly so – I’m a colossal fan!) ratchets up the tension tighter and tighter, so we are cheering on the unlikely heroine Hulda, who has a tragic backstory of her own. It is essentially not dissimilar to an Agatha Christie novel (whose novels Jónasson translated into Icelandic) – there are only three suspects, as the island is otherwise deserted. Added frisson comes with the question of how this is connected to the murder of the quartet’s friend and sister a decade previously, giving Hulda two murders to solve…as well as the opportunity to see the insufferable Lydur knocked off his ill-deserved pedestal. The well-portrayed spooky atmosphere of the deserted Elldaey also left me feeling uneasy as I read late into the night…
It’s difficult to say much more without dropping spoilers. I must admit to being a big fan of Icelandic Noir, partly because of settings like Elldaey and the way writers use such desolate landscape to give readers a feeling of unease. I particularly enjoy Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Arnaldur Indridason, and Quentin Bates. Ragnar Jónasson is demonstrating with each book he writes that he more than deserves a place amongst such hallowed company. Victoria Cribb, who also translates for the first two mentioned above (Bates writes in English), provides as ever a seamless translation.
I think I’ve mentioned that I’ve found my concentration pretty poor while I’ve been in hospital, and I’ve been guilty of getting halfway through books before abandoning them for another title – something I’d rarely do at home. This definitely wasn’t the case with The Island – I romped through it faster than nearly any other book since I’ve been in hospital! Here’s hoping it’s helped my concentration heal.
I received a proof copy from Penguin Michael Joseph books, but this is an unbiased review.
BLURB: Elliðaey is an isolated island off the coast of Iceland. It is has a beautiful, unforgiving terrain and is an easy place to vanish.
The Island is the second thrilling book in Ragnar Jonasson’s Hidden Iceland trilogy. This time Hulda is at the peak of her career and is sent to investigate what happened on Elliðaey after a group of friends visited but one failed to return.
Could this have links to the disappearance of a couple ten years previously out on the Westfjords? Is there a killer stalking these barren outposts?
Written with Ragnar’s haunting and suspenseful prose The Island follows Hulda’s journey to uncover the island’s secrets and find the truth hidden in its darkest shadows.