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The Mist

Review

The Mist

The American publication of THE MIST comes three years after its initial release in author Ragnar Jonasson’s native Iceland. It is a tale for all seasons and in many ways is an example of what the best of the mystery genre can be.
 
The Hidden Iceland series is a now-complete canon featuring Hulda Hermannsdottir of the Reykjavik Police Department. Her story is told book by book in reverse, with the first installment, THE DARKNESS, taking place toward the end of her career. THE MIST occurs near the beginning and documents the start of the tragedies that Hulda has experienced over the course of her time as a detective inspector, using the occasionally grim beauty of rural Iceland as a backdrop.

"THE MIST is an unforgettable tale that is startling on several levels. Jonasson should be much better known among American readers than he currently is because of his magnificent ability to toy with story structure..."

In February 1988, Hulda is called to a crime scene in a somewhat isolated village. She has just returned to work after a leave of absence, which had been granted due to an initially unrevealed incident that unravels throughout the novel. She is still feeling a great deal of sorrow and anger, and is troubled by her inability to solve a missing person case.

The narrative shifts over distance and time to the isolated farmhouse of a married couple named Erla and Einar in the runup to Christmas 1987. In the midst of a blizzard, Icelandic-style, their lunch is disturbed by an unexpected knocking on their door. A man, who identifies himself as Leo, tells them he was part of a hunting party that got lost in the weather. They take him in, offering him food and lodging.

Erla, though, has increasing misgivings about the honesty of their new acquaintance and his intent. Indeed, his story begins to slowly fall apart under Erla’s intermittently prosecutorial inquisition. Einar’s suspicions are a few steps behind Erla’s, but he gradually catches up with her, even as she wonders if she is being unduly suspicious. For better or worse, things come to a head on Christmas morning.

Meanwhile, Hulda and her family are experiencing a domestic crisis of their own involving her daughter, Dimma, which results in a holiday season that will be etched in her memory forever.
 
THE MIST is an unforgettable tale that is startling on several levels. Jonasson should be much better known among American readers than he currently is because of his magnificent ability to toy with story structure within individual novels and over the arc of a trilogy. Perhaps this book will reach the audience that he has earned and thus deserves. It also would make for a powerful film. If someone out there is willing to spend the money for acquisition rights, Jonasson (with Victoria Cribb’s pitch-perfect translation) does all the work for you.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on June 25, 2020

The Mist
by Ragnar Jonasson

  • Publication Date: June 23, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 125076811X
  • ISBN-13: 9781250768117