The Island

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By Ragnar Jonasson; reviewed by Jeannette Hartman

In 1997, four friends decide to have a reunion in the memory of a fifth friend, murdered 10 years earlier.

The friends — Benedikt (Benni), Dagur, Klara and Alexandra — decide to go away to Ellidaey Island. Benni tells them it’s peaceful, isolated, has flocks of birds and dramatic cliffs and views.

But on Sunday, when Benni radios his uncle to pick them up, only three of them are alive. Klara’s broken body is at the base of a cliff. Did she fall? Was she pushed? Was she murdered?

Those are the questions Reykjavík detective Hulda Hermannsdóttir faces when she responds to the call from a colleague in the Ellidaey region. She’s been working that weekend for the overtime pay. Since it’s been quiet, she decides to go investigate herself rather than sending someone else.

It’s also an anniversary for Hulda. Ten years ago, her 13-year-old daughter Dimma committed suicide. Two years later, her husband Jón died of heart problems, leaving Hulda with huge debts she hadn’t been aware of. She’d lost a beautiful house on Álftanes and now lives in a small condo and works as much overtime as she can for the money. She’s approaching her fiftieth birthday and finding her life lonely and her future depressing.

A promotion she’d felt highly qualified for went to a colleague, Lýdur. He’d had multiple promotions since; she’d had one. Hulda’s colleagues and boss consider her to be effective but something of a plodder.

But this is exactly the type of case she excels at.

Benni, Dagur and Alexandra say as little as possible about the events of the evening of Klara’s fall. They don’t say who their murdered mutual friend was. They don’t discuss why, after 10 years of little contact, they have decided to come together again.

Hulda is certain that they are hiding something. She’s equally certain that there is a connection between the 1987 and the 1997 deaths of two former best friends. The net of her investigation also pulls in a colleague and proves just how far the ambitious will go to secure advancement.

This is classic Nordic Noir. Hulda has a dark view of the world, but she never sacrifices her professionalism or her integrity. The scenic, isolated island setting in this novel is effective.

Given that this is a prequel to author Ragnar Jónasson’s first Hulda novel, THE DARKNESS, he tells you enough about who Hulda is without spoiling a reading of THE DARKNESS later.

The third book in the Hulda series is THE MIST, which takes place in 1987.

About the Author: Ragnar Jónasson (1976 – )

Ragnar Jónasson is the author of two series — the Dark Iceland series featuring Detective Ari Thor, and the Hidden Iceland series featuring Hulda Hermannsdóttir — as well as three standalone novels.

CBS Studios has plans to adapt THE DARKNESS as an eight-part TV series.

When he was 17, Jónasson began translating Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic and has completed 14.

Jónasson has a law degree and works as an investment banker in Reykjavik. He teaches copyright law at Reykjavik University. He is the co-founder of the Reykjavik international crime writing festival Iceland Noir.


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