HODDER & STOUGHTON, £12.99 Order for £11.69 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030

The Day is Dark, By Yrsa Sigurdardottir

A cold case that's worth investigating

Reykjavik lawyer Thora Gudmunstdottir is offered a special case by her German banker boyfriend. His bank needs an investigation into mysterious happenings in a distant place.

Excitedly planning for the Caribbean, Thora finds herself in furthest Greenland, accompanied by her wondrously incompetent secretary, Bella.

Bella provides some humorous leaven in Yrsa Sigurdardottir's novel (translated by Philip Roughton), which reaches deep into human character. It explores the feelings both of the Inuit population and outsiders. In the geologists' camp where mining possibilities are assessed, only two people are apparently left alive. By the time Thora gets there, they too have vanished. It's impossible to get more employees to work there, the place has such a dark reputation. It is also considered evil among the Inuit.

All agree there is a curse on the place, associated with a strange phenomenon in 1918 when a small Danish colony suddenly disappeared. Is there a scientific explanation, born out of the study of contagious diseases, or a traditional one, based on belief in the malign spirit Tupilak, conjured up through a fetish made of bones? The Arctic is full of man-made toxins: could this be responsible for strange epidemics?

Watching Thora from a distance is the Inuit hunter Igmaq, a despairing man. His son has traded in his hunting rifle for a case of beer, his daughter is dead, and his lead huskywill soon be too weak to fight for his position as head of the pack. Deeply reverential towards his ancestors, he believes that the spirits of those who die childless can haunt the living.

As the scientists probe the physical evidence, Thora goes deep into the complex relationships among an isolated group: bullying, alcoholism, irrational hatreds. The newcomers to the camp feel more and more threatened by the environment: both the physical dangers of the land of ice and snow, and those emanating from hostile locals. But there are no stereotypes. The Inuit are divided among themselves, between those who perceive that the old way of life has gone forever and that mining would bring work and hope, and men such as Igmaq, whose dog symbolises all that was finest about the old way of life. It's another complex case for Thora, liveliest granny on the floes, and deeply satisfying for the warm-toed reader.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood

'Whether he left is almost immaterial'TV
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before