- The Mist, by Ragnar Jonasson. Michael Joseph. $32.99.
Ragnar Jonasson has been obsessed with crime fiction since an early age. By the time he was 17, he was translating Agatha Christie's novels into Icelandic. It's therefore no surprise that he became a crime writer himself, directing his talent towards Nordic Noir.
However, he says, "Christie was not just an inspiration for my writing, but a support".
Jonasson's debut novel Snowblind (2010) was the first of his multi-award-winning 'Dark Iceland' series set in and around Siglufjordur, featuring his detective Ari Thor.
However after five years, and five atmospheric mysteries, he decided he wanted to "write about a character with a completely different background and set of experiences". So began the 'Hidden Iceland' trilogy featuring Hulda Hermansdottir, a policewoman working out of Reykjavik.
The Mist is the third novel of the trilogy, which tells the story of Hulda's life and three different criminal investigations. Although the novels focus on three different stages in her life, Jonasson introduces his detective in the first novel The Darkness (2018), when she is 64, in the second The Island (2019 ) she is 50 and in The Mist, Hulda is 40.
Jonasson has said "the series is told in reverse chronology as I found the possibility of going back in time to explore Hulda's character and history in more depth very intriguing".
The Mist is set in 1987, at Christmas, and Hulda is struggling, aware that, in the police, she is a woman in a man's world.
She believes "some of her colleagues longed for her to make a mistake, to perform worse than them". As a result she has a "deep need" to prove herself.
Life at home is a struggle too, with her teenage daughter withdrawn and unhappy and her husband refusing to address the problem.
As Christmas approaches, Hulda is still trying to solve the mysterious disappearance of a student in the summer.
The student had come from a good family and had been taking a year off between school and university.
Meanwhile on a remote farm in the east, Erla and Einar prepare for a dark and isolated Christmas because "no on would ever make it this far inland in the snow".
However, on Christmas Eve, a stranger knocks on their door in the middle of a snowstorm. He says his name in Leo and they invite him in. Two months later, Hulda is sent east to investigate the discovery of bodies in an isolated farmhouse.
The Mist is a tense and absorbing story of the impact of isolation and extreme conditions on the mind, as well as a tragic story of mothers and daughters, all set against the bleak landscape of an Icelandic winter.