Readers who fell in love with tenebrous detective Hulda Hermannsdóttir in The Darkness were somewhat perturbed by Ragnar Jónasson’s decision to portray her on the brink of retirement in her very first book. However, with the publication of The Island, the second book in the Hulda series, Ragnar’s plan has become evident. Here, we delve into Hulda’s past, meeting her again in middle age, still keeping her chin up against the misogyny of the Reykjavík Police Force.
As with Ragnar’s previous books, The Island is more of a quiet, plodding thriller than an action-packed adventure. The reader is presented with two deaths a decade apart: a young woman who is murdered in a cabin in the Westfjords and another woman who disappears ten years later while staying with a group of friends in an old fishing lodge on one of the small islands surrounding the Westman Islands. Although we witness the earlier, blundering investigation into the murder in the Westfjords– undertaken by one of Hulda’s foes on the force – Hulda herself doesn’t really enter the picture until the book’s second half, when she travels to the remote island and interrogates the woman’s friends one by one. There, she gradually unveils their mutual culpability, much like Inspector Goole in J.B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls, and eventually reveals the connection to the previous murder.
A prolific translator of Agatha Christie, Ragnar Jónasson pays homage to his patroness’ most challenging mystery And Then There Were None in his choice of location – a remote, uninhabited island off the coast of Iceland – and shows his usual knack for subverting the tropes of the English murder mystery through the deadpan delivery of Nordic Noir.