First Line: February 1988. Hulda Hermannsdóttir opened her eyes.
1987. In the midst of a seemingly unending snowstorm, there's someone pounding on a farmhouse door. An extremely remote farmhouse in the scarcely populated east of Iceland. The snowstorm should have kept everyone at home, but it didn't. The couple had no way of realizing what would happen when they opened the door to the stranger, but now it's up to Detective Hulda Hermannsdóttir to put all the pieces together to find out what actually happened.
Before I say anything else, I have to say this: Ragnar Jónasson's Hulda trilogy is brilliant.
I say this knowing that it's definitely not everyone's cup of literary tea. But these three books have grabbed me in a way that few seldom do: The Darkness, The Island, and now The Mist make me want to read them all over again, and I don't reread books. (That's almost a rule carved in stone.)
Jónasson did something with this trilogy that I'd never read before: he told his story in reverse chronological order. The first book, The Darkness, lets us meet Hulda at the end of her career, and each successive book takes us to an earlier chapter in her life.
The opening of The Mist begins with Hulda, who's reeling from tragedy and back to work too soon. She's feeling so lethargic that none of the cases she's working on interests her, even the one concerning a young girl who's gone missing while enjoying a gap year from her studies. From Hulda's prologue, we move to a remote farmhouse in the east of Iceland where the winter snows never stop, and Erla Einarsson is stuck at home for weeks-- if not months-- at a time. Her only company besides her husband Einar is her books. Erla is looking forward to Christmas because she's read her stockpile of books and knows she'll be getting new ones as gifts. This opening with Erla is fantastic as she describes her life during the winter. Cold, completely claustrophobic, and utterly compelling. It's not long, however, until we begin to wonder how reliable Erla is as she tells us about her life.
There are two investigations in The Mist. One concerning the missing girl, and the other concentrating on what happened in that remote farmhouse. How Jónasson ties them both together is a little piece of magic.
Now that I've read the trilogy, I see the significance of the book titles. The title of this book refers to the mist that can come down and cloud your judgment and even your sanity. I definitely will be rereading these books, only in chronological order this time because I want to see how Jónasson slotted all the pieces together.
The Mist is a knockout ending to this trilogy. But be warned: Hulda is a very unhappy, very damaged character. She has good reason to be. Bad things happen in these books, and everything doesn't always come right at their conclusions. If you haven't read any of these books, I strongly urge you to do so, knowing that you have an advantage over those of us who began with The Darkness: you can choose to read the books in chronological order. However, while I'm in Urge Mode, I urge you to read them in the order in which they were published. But hang onto your socks. They just might get knocked off.
The Mist by Ragnar Jónasson
Translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb.
Minotaur Books © 2020
eBook, 336 pages
Police Procedural, #3 Hidden Iceland
Source: Purchased from Amazon.