The Mist by Ragnar Jonasson – extract

Ragnar Jonasson is the author of the Dark Iceland series featuring Ari Thor Arason and the Hidden Iceland series featuring Hulda Hermannsdottir. The lastest book in the Hidden Iceland series, The Mist, was published by Penguin on 12 November 2020.

Today I have an extract from the book.

Prologue
February 1988
Hulda Hermannsdóttir opened her eyes.
So heavy and unrelenting was the sense of lethargy
weighing her down that she felt as if she’d been drugged.
She could have gone on sleeping all day, even here in her
hard chair. It was just as well that, as a detective, she merited an office to herself. It meant she could shut the door
on the outside world and wait for the hours to pass, either
by staring into space or letting her eyelids droop. Meanwhile, the documents piled up on the desk in front of her.
Since returning from leave two weeks ago she hadn’t got
to grips with a single case.
This neglect hadn’t gone entirely unnoticed by her boss,
Snorri, although, to his credit, he was treating her with
patient understanding. The fact was she’d simply had to
come back to work; she couldn’t bear to spend another
minute cooped up in the house with Jón. Even the breathtaking natural beauty of their home on Álftanes couldn’t
work its magic on her these days. She was deaf to the sighing of the waves and blind to the stars and Northern
Lights shimmering across the sky. She and Jón hardly
spoke to each other, and she’d given up initiating any conversations with him, although she still answered if he
addressed her directly.
The February darkness did nothing to help. It was the
coldest, greyest time of the year, and every new day seemed
to bring a deterioration in the weather. As if things weren’t
bad enough, the snow had been coming down heavily that
month, burying the city in a muffling layer and clogging
its arteries. Cars kept getting stuck in the streets, and it
took all Hulda’s skill to navigate the unploughed back
roads of Álftanes in her Skoda, despite its regulation studded tyres, before making it safely on to the main road at
Kópavogur.

For a while she had doubted she would ever return to
work. In fact, she’d doubted she would ever leave the house
again, or find the strength to crawl out from under her
duvet. But in the end there were only two options: to stay
at home with Jón or sit in her office from dawn to dusk,
even if she achieved little in the way of work.
Having opted for the office, she struggled to concentrate and instead spent her days moving files and reports
from one pile to another, trying to read them but feeling
unable to focus. Things couldn’t go on like this, she reasoned; they had to get better. Of course, she would never
get over her guilt – she knew that – but the pain would
inevitably be blunted over time. At least she could cling to
that hope. But for now her anger towards Jón, far from dissipating, was growing and festering. With every day that passed she could sense the rage and hatred churning ever
more corrosively inside her, and she knew that it wasn’t
doing her any good, but she just couldn’t control her emotions. She had to find an outlet for them somehow . . .
When the phone rang on her desk, Hulda didn’t react.
Lost in a dark, private world, she didn’t even raise her
eyes until it had rung several times. Then, at last, moving
sluggishly, as if under water, she picked up the receiver.
‘Hulda.’
‘Hello, Hulda. Snorri here.’
She immediately felt unsettled. Her boss didn’t usually
ring her unless it was urgent. Their contact was normally
limited to morning meetings, and he didn’t, as a rule, interfere much in the day-to-day handling of her investigations.
‘Oh, hello,’ she said after a slight delay.
‘Could you pop in and see me? Something’s come up.’
‘I’m on my way.’ She put down the receiver, rose to her
feet and checked her appearance in the small mirror she
kept in her handbag. However awful she felt, she was
determined not to show any sign of weakness at work. Of
course, none of her colleagues could be in any doubt of
the state she was in, but what she dreaded more than anything was being sent on compassionate leave again. The
only way to hang on to the shreds of her sanity was to
keep herself busy.
Snorri greeted her with a smile as she stepped into his
office, which was so much larger than her own. Feeling
the waves of sympathy emanating from him, she cursed
under her breath, afraid any show of kindness from him
would undermine her hard-won self-control.

‘How are you, Hulda?’ he asked, waving her to a seat
before she had a chance to reply.
‘Fine, fine, under the circumstances.’
‘How are you finding being back in the office?’
‘I’m just getting into gear again. Tying up the loose
ends on some of last year’s cases. It’s all coming along.’
‘Are you absolutely sure you’re up to it?’ Snorri asked.
‘I’m perfectly happy to grant you more time off, should
you need it. Of course, we need you here too, as you know,
but we want to be sure you’re up to coping with the more
challenging cases.’
‘I can understand that.’
‘And are you?’
‘Am I what?’
‘Up to coping?’
‘Yes,’ she lied, looking him straight in the eye.
‘Right, well. In that case, something’s come up and I’d
like you to look into it, Hulda.’
‘Oh?’
‘An ugly business.’ He paused before frowning and
emphasizing his words with a wave of his arm: ‘Bloody
ugly, in fact. Suspected murder out east. We need to send
someone over there right now. I’m so sorry to spring this
on you so soon after your return, but no one else with
your experience is free at the moment.’
Hulda thought he could have done a better job of
dressing this up as a compliment, but never mind.
‘Of course I can go. I’m perfectly up to it,’ she replied,
aware even as she said it that this was a lie. ‘Whereabouts
in the east?’‘

Oh, some farmhouse miles from anywhere. It’s unbelievable anyone’s still making a go of farming out there.’
‘Who’s the victim? Do we know yet?’
‘The victim? Oh, sorry, Hulda, I didn’t give you the
full story. We’re not just talking about one body . . .’ He
paused. ‘Apparently, the discovery was pretty horrific. It’s
not clear how long the bodies have been lying there, but
they’re guessing since Christmas at least . . .’

About the Book

1987. An isolated farm house in the east of Iceland.

The snowstorm should have shut everybody out. But it didn’t.

The couple should never have let him in. But they did.

An unexpected guest, a liar, a killer. Not all will survive the night. And Detective Hulda will be haunted forever . .

About the Author

Ragnar Jónasson is an international number one bestselling author who has sold over two million books in thirty-two countries worldwide. He was born in Reykjavík, Iceland, where he also works as an investment banker and teaches copyright law at Reykjavík University. He has previously worked on radio and television, including as a TV news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, and, from the age of seventeen, has translated fourteen of Agatha Christie’s novels. His critically acclaimed international bestseller The Darkness is soon to be a major TV series.

 

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