Skip to main content

The Darkness Knows


The Darkness Knows

THE DARKNESS KNOWS is not a sequel to Arnaldur Indridason’s THE SHADOW DISTRICT, which introduced a gentleman named Konrad, a retired Reykjavik police detective, to fans of Icelandic noir. Konrad played an important but secondary role in that worthy title, which properly belongs in what is known as the “Reykjavik Wartime Mystery Series.”

The book, which has just been published in the United States (thanks to an ace translation by Victoria Cribb), is the inaugural volume of the taciturn Konrad’s very own series, of which four installments have been published in Iceland to date. While THE DARKNESS KNOWS brushes up against THE SHADOW DISTRICT, it is not at all necessary to have read the latter to appreciate the former, which stands quite well on its own.

"The mystery at the core of THE DARKNESS KNOWS is compelling, all the more so because it goes from the complex to the simple rather than the other way around."

At the start of this new novel, Konrad is interrupted from a sound sleep. It is a change from an unfamiliar, uncomfortable routine for the former detective, who is at loose ends with nothing to detect even as he continues to adjust to his status as a widower. The reason for the awakening is an unresolved case from Konrad’s past some three decades before that indirectly resulted in his retirement from the police force. It involved the disappearance of a local businessman whose body has now been found, almost perfectly preserved, in a local glacier. Konrad is asked to assist the police in the investigation. Though initially reluctant, he is gradually drawn in, particularly when the original prime suspect in the case --- who is now on his deathbed --- asks him to do so even while declaring his innocence to the very end.

Konrad begins digging into the investigation from reverse and finds mistakes, misdirection and outright deception. During the course of interrogating people associated with the murder victim, he is able to connect a seemingly unrelated cold case involving a hit-and-run fatality to his own investigation. He obtains a delayed justice of sorts for the victim as well as for the unjustly accused suspect, though the full extent to which the scales are balanced is not clear until the end of the book.

The mystery at the core of THE DARKNESS KNOWS is compelling, all the more so because it goes from the complex to the simple rather than the other way around. Readers may come for the crime but will stay for the personalities that pepper the narrative throughout. Konrad is quietly compelling and sympathetic, though not entirely likable, a combination of qualities that paradoxically makes him all the more endearing. Indridason fully fleshes out his protagonist using introspection and memorable secondary characters in equal measure to do so.

However, the primary character is Iceland in general and Reykjavik in particular, a backdrop that most American readers will not have the opportunity to visit but will come to know intimately through the subtlety of Indridason’s descriptions, which sculpt and carve a vision of the locale with each novel he writes.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on August 20, 2021

The Darkness Knows
by Arnaldur Indridason

  • Publication Date: December 6, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 125076548X
  • ISBN-13: 9781250765482