‘The Day is Dark’ by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

My Review (4 stars out of 5)

On the northeast coast of Greenland, two Icelanders working on a mining project disappear into thin air. Lawyer Thora is hired to investigate on behalf of the bank, who have a financial interest in the company behind the project. But the two men aren’t the only ones to have vanished from the isolated community and Thora soon finds there are lots of unanswered questions, not the least being the weird folklore and beliefs of the nearest village. Along with her partner Matthew, Thora wonders if some of the people in the team might be responsible for the disappearances, and if so, why?

Being book 4 in the Thora Gudmundsdottir series (translated by Philip Roughton), I’m not sure why I decided to start with this one – you’d think I’d have learned by now to start at the beginning of a series. Anyway. As with many translated books, there are questions about the language and this one is no different, but more of that later. The plot is an intriguing one, mixing what is essentially a modern murder mystery in a community whose cultural beliefs about death and the soul (and strange creatures known as Tupilaqs), only serve to add another layer of creepiness to the story. Although the plot is a little slow at times (for most of the book nothing much happens), I was never bored. Sigurdardottir’s storytelling is interesting, and her characters are totally believable. The idea of having a female lawyer as the heroine makes a nice change from those hard-boiled bad-boy detective stories.

Having said that, some reviewers’ claims that Sigurdardottir is Iceland’s answer to Stieg Larsson are rubbish. Larsson’s writing is far superior and much more engaging. His use of language too (even translated) makes his books easier to read and appreciate. The Day is Dark, by contrast, is a dense book with ridiculously long paragraphs, occasionally clunky dialogue and odd phrasing. Also, why does the author (or the translator) insist on having people speak in a grammatically correct way, rather than realistically? For instance: ‘I don’t think there are many candidates to whom it could have belonged,’ said Thora. Someone please tell me Icelanders don’t speak like this.

All whinges aside, this is a great read that held my interest all the way through. I’ll be looking at Sigurdardottir’s work again soon (when I’ve read more Stieg Larsson 😉).

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  3 comments for “‘The Day is Dark’ by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

  1. 07/12/2022 at 5:47 PM

    I enjoyed this review, Colin. In South Africa, a large section of the population are speakers of English as a second language. I have noticed that the more educated English second language speakers use very formal English when they write. I thing it is a hang over form being taught a language largely in a written form first. When we write English we are taught to communicate with formal language and proper punctuation. We don’t speak like that though.


    • 08/12/2022 at 6:27 AM

      Indeed. I certainly know how to speak properly but I’d sound like a bit of an idiot if I talked liked that al the time 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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