The Day is Dark, by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
The Day is Dark is the fourth of Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s crime novels to feature the heroine, Thora Gudmunsdottir. The blurb on the front cover suggests that she is ‘Iceland’s answer to Steig Larsson’; this is not quite true as the authors mine slightly different territory, but her novels sit happily amongst the best of the new wave of Scandinavian crime.
Thora is drawn into a mysterious case by her boyfriend, Matthew, who is asked to investigate possible contract violations for an insurance policy set up by the bank where he works. The contract concerns a mining operation in a remote part of Greenland, where the company are now vastly behind schedule, and their employees are refusing to go back to work. When several workers disappear – presumed lost in a snow storm – their remaining colleagues leave and will not return. The management assume that this is mainly due to adverse weather conditions, but on arrival, Thora discovers a much more complicated and sinister situation which has left many of the workers too scared to go back. It is then a race against time and the conditions as Thora tries to find hard evidence to resolve the conflicts.
The author uses the remote location well to create a foreboding atmosphere in the novel; the setting is claustrophobic and the occupants of the local village seem to threaten the safety of the miners, refusing to have any contact with them. The clash of native against the foreign workers is central to the story, and Thora is keen to find out why they refuse to provide any help or information. Many believe that the land on which the mine stands is evil and supernatural forces are at play, snatching the workers away. Thora strongly resists this belief, however, and tries to find a rational explanation, digging deep into the history of the area for proof.
The story is solid, but somewhat unremarkable. Sigurdardottir tries to bring together many different strands and it occasionally feels slightly convoluted and awkward. The supernatural elements are interesting, and the history of the area is used to good effect, but there are times when the plot stalls somewhat as the team try to decide what to do, or wait for outside help. This slow pacing may leave readers frustrated as when the story moves more quickly, it is accomplished and enjoyable. Overall though it is a fine addition to the Thora Gudsmundottir series, and fans of Scandicrime or those looking for a slightly different style of crime novel will most likely enjoy The Day is Dark. Those new to Yrsa’s writing, however, would be best to look to the earlier books in the series before this as these are stronger and better paced tales.