Icelandic culture has a great history of storytelling and there is a reverence for books and reading that seems to be lacking in other modern European countries. I think this is why there have been so many fantastic Icelandic authors coming to the fore in recent years. The Island is the second book in Ragnar Jónasson’s Hidden Island series. In the first book we were introduced to Hulda Hermannsdottir. A police detective at the end of the career, a bravely tragic figure who has survived the worst that life can throw at you.
In The Island we step back to 1997 when Hulda is still trying to prove herself against her male counterparts. Despite an incredible work ethic and good detective skills she is being passed over for promotion. At fifty she knows that she needs to push herself forward now. It is unusual for a series to step backwards in time but in this case it really works. As a specialist in homicides and sudden deaths in a country where murder is still quite uncommon she is called in by the Western Isles police to investigate a death on a remote island.
A group of four old friends has gone out to an island for a weekend reunion. When they wake up in the morning one of them is dead. Hulda needs to work out if it is an accident, suicide or murder. The suspect pool is very small and she soon realises that the relationships between the four friends were not as they seemed.
If you are looking for a high octane thriller you are in the wrong place. Jónasson is so good at creating a real sense of place, of making you feel like you have been uprooted and dropped right into the bleak Icelandic countryside. You can practically smell the sulphur as he describes the outdoor hot springs, the rugged landscape and the soaring birdlife on the little island. His writing is highly emotive, drawing you in to the small circle of characters and making you feel like involved in the action.
At the end of my review copy there is a little teaser chapter for book three which will be out next March. I can’t wait!
Supplied by Net Galley and Penguin UK in exchange for an unbiased review.
UK Publication Date: Apr 4 2019. 352 pages.