Elliðaey is an isolated island off the coast of Iceland. It is has a beautiful, unforgiving terrain and is an easy place to vanish.
The Island is the second thrilling book in Ragnar Jonasson’s Hidden Iceland trilogy. This time Hulda is at the peak of her career and is sent to investigate what happened on Elliðaey after a group of friends visited but one failed to return.
Title: The Island | Author: Ragnar Jónasson | Series: Hidden Iceland #2 |Publisher: Michael Joseph | Pages: 350| ISBN: 9780718187255 | Publication date: 4th April 2019| Source: NetGalley
‘The Island’ is an Icelandic mystery novel, the middle book in the ‘Hidden Iceland’ trilogy. I’ve not read the first book, but this one made sense regardless.
It starts well, with a genuinely creepy prologue and then an enjoyably mysterious murder. The chronology is interesting as well. The prologue takes place after the murder and the action then skips forward 10 years. The main story examines a group of friends, with connections to the murder victim, who are meeting for a reunion in the countryside.
Whilst the Icelandic setting gives the book a pleasantly different feel, it’s not enough to really lift it above the crowd. The descriptions of the remote, deserted landscape are rich and give it some atmosphere but often feel like window dressing. I never got a great sense of place from it, there’s little description of Icelandic culture, just lots of fjords and hot springs.
Unfortunately, the plot is pretty standard fare too and the characters aren’t massively engaging. There is an elongated subplot about detective Hulda Hermannsdottir’s search for the truth about her absent father, but I struggled to work up much enthusiasm for it. The same was true of Hulda’s rivalry with another member of the local police force. It may be that if I’d read the first book in the series I’d have had more emotional engagement with Hulda, but I suspect not. Unfortunately there just didn’t seem to be much of interest going on with her.
Sadly, the central mystery suffers from exactly the problem. I really didn’t care about it, and got the impression that Hulda didn’t either. She seemed to solve the case through unfocussed plodding and blind chance rather than any determination or insight on her part.
That’s not to say that the book isn’t readable, it’s an enjoyable enough piece of crime fiction even if the prose is a bit stilted (which may be the fault of the translator rather than the author). The locations are nice enough and I didn’t guess the ending. If that sounds like I’m damning it with faint praise that’s because I probably am. It’s fine, but no more than that.