Icelandic Novel, The Mist by Ragnar Jonasson
Published on 14th January 2021
This is the final instalment in the Hidden Iceland trilogy series which brings us back in time to 1987/88, revealing the true start to Hulda’s journey. Anyone who loves crime fiction will absolutely love the subtle, atmospheric writing of these novels with Iceland forming the perfect backdrop for this genre.
This book, as do the previous two in the trilogy, centres on Detective Hulda Hermannsdottir who is working hard in a male dominated world, despite having to cope with her own personal tragedy.
Picture this!! An isolated farmhouse 600 kilometres east of Reykjavik inhabited by a farmer called Einar and his wife Earla. It is just two days before Christmas and the road is blocked by high snow drifts and a raging blizzard obscures vision. Earla finds comfort in books in order to cope with the isolation and loneliness. The couple are now awaiting the arrival of their daughter Anna who also lives in this remote vicinity where they will enjoy their Christmas together.
There is a knock on the door.
A stranger, a man called Leo appears out of the storm. He claims to have been separated from his friends while out hunting. Einar openly welcomes him in to their home but Earla is suspicious and wants him gone. As Earla becomes more anxious she convinces her husband that there is something treacherous and secretive about Leo. In the meantime the power goes off and they discover that the phone line is down too. All these things add to the chilly suspense of the story but where is Anna?
A parallel story sees Hulda distressed because her teenage daughter is severely depressed and has isolated herself in her bedroom. Hulda wants to take her to a psychiatrist but her husband rejects this suggestion saying that their daughter is just going through a typical teenage phase.
Hulda opts to work over Christmas to keep her mind off her personal worries. She is investigating the case of a missing student who was on a gap year while making her way across Iceland and who hasn’t been in touch with her family since the autumn. This girl’s father inexplicably disappears a few days before Christmas and Hulda is tasked with investigating both disappearances. Fast forward to two months later, Hulda arrives at the isolated farmhouse to assist in solving a crime after the horrifying discovery of two bodies.
Ragnar Jonasson weaves the three stories of Hulda, the missing student and the farmhouse murders into a single compelling narrative that is absolutely riveting.
I’m not going to give away any spoilers. Suffice to say that the atmosphere created by Jonasson brings the Icelandic landscape to life. The plots are cleverly constructed and once I started to read it I couldn’t put it down. The Mist could be read as a stand-alone novel but I also think it was a genius way of writing in reverse. It could equally have been book one and not book three of the trilogy. It was through reading Jonasson’s books that I learned of two Icelandic traditions: “the Christmas Cat” and the “Christmas Book Flood” (Jolabokaflod) which is an Icelandic tradition of giving books as a Christmas gift and spending Christmas Eve reading into the night. Apparently all Icelanders observe this tradition.
I would have no hesitation in recommending this book which is available on Borrowbox in an e-book and e-audiobook format.
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Submitted by Teresa of Inchicore Library.