Feb 21 2013 9:30am

Fresh Meat: The Day is Dark by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir

The Day is Dark by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir is the fourth mystery featuring attorney Thóra Gudmundsdóttir (available February 26, 2013).

At an author event in the spring of 2012, Yrsa Sigurdardóttir was talking about the power of place for an author working on a mystery novel. The place in question was Greenland, which she had visited only briefly—but long enough to gather inspiration for a new book. “I looked at the sled dogs and I asked, ‘What would happen if you put a dead body in front of those dogs? Would they eat it?’” she recalled.


I came away from the event with two thoughts: 1) be very careful if you travel with a crime fiction author; and 2) keep an eye out for Yrsa’s next book. That book is The Day is Dark, and it is indeed set in Greenland, perhaps the only inhabited place on earth that Icelanders would consider too darned cold, dark, and inhospitable to live in.

Fans of Yrsa’s previous books will know that Greenland is absolutely not the place for main character attorney Thóra Gudmundsdóttir to be spending any time. She’s Icelandic, but Thóra is hardly the rugged outdoors type. Yet she is always game for a challenging case—and this one’s lucrative to boot. So, if it means traveling to Greenland to investigate a potential breach of contract on a mining project, so be it. At least she’ll be traveling with her handsome banker boyfriend Matthew Reich.

The country looked very unwelcoming. It was covered with snow except in a few places where the mountainsides were too steep for it to settle… Icebergs were floating everywhere off the coast and the overriding impression was that the land was being ground into pieces and driven out into the sea. The jaggedness of the coastline did nothing to diminish this effect. The same went for the interior: there were no level areas, and the mountain peaks were innumerable. …

“Has the pilot got confused and taken us to the North Pole?” Thóra asked Matthew… “No one could possibly be living down there.”

He leaned toward the window and looked slightly shaken when he turned back to her. “It looks worse from such a great height,” he said…. “I’m sure it will look better when we land.”

Things don’t look any better on the ground of course. The group with Thóra and Matthew includes a couple of reluctant mining company employees and Bella, Thóra’s surly secretary. They must figure out why the entire crew on the mining project has pulled up stakes, gone home to Iceland, and refused to return to the job site. The answer—no surprise—has to do with the growing number of missing-presumed-dead employees on the job. People just seem to wander off into the night and are never heard from again. It’s the sort of thing that will spook even the most levelheaded person, especially when the locals insist that the job site is cursed and their beliefs appear to be based on more than superstition.

“Do you know, for example, what the name of that miserable little town over there means?” asked Bella.

“Kaanneq? said Thóra in an inquisitive tone. “I would hazard a guess at the ends of the earth or something along those lines. It would at least be fitting.”

“No, it means hunger,” said Bella, as she reached for the packet of cornflakes. “The story goes that the first settlers there all starved to death. Maybe that’s what happened here?”

There are many layers to the explanation of what went on at the mining site, what happened to the missing employees and, most importantly, why the locals steer way clear of the area. As always, however, it’s the little bits of knowledge and the uncommon characters, such as Igimaq the Greenlandic hunter, that Yrsa weaves into her books to make them so distinctive.

…it simply ran contrary to [Igimaq’s] character and upbringing to argue or get worked up. It was an ancient custom; those who lived together in small groups could not afford discord… The only way to express one’s disapproval was to remain silent, because words spoken in anger had a way of snowballing, intensifying and provoking hostility that would eventually put the survival of the entire community at risk. The Greenlandic language was thus free of invective and Igimaq was not about to start swearing in Danish.

It’s unlikely that many of us will visit Greenland. So Yrsa Sigurdardóttir has done it for us, and the story she began plotting there is a complex tale indeed.

See more coverage of new releases in our Fresh Meat series.

Leslie Gilbert Elman is the author of Weird But True: 200 Astounding, Outrageous, and Totally Off the Wall Facts. Follow her on Twitter @leslieelman.


Read all of Leslie Gilbert Elman’s posts for Criminal Element.


Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Andrew Kuligowski
3. KuligowskiAndrew
My wife has already read Yrsa Sigurdardóttir's first novel, and I'm hoping to get to it soon. She's asked me about finding the next one ...
Rosa Abraham
4. ravensfan
Looks like a good one! Would love to win a copy.
Connie Schultz
5. mamacat509
I think they might if they were hungry enough.
6. Dorothy Hood
7. janedoe
would like to win to start reading this author
Shirley Younger
8. ydsddd
I love mysteries and this definitely sounds like a good one
Joyce Mitchell
10. JoyceLm
Thanks for the review & the chance to win.
William Hamilton
11. billham68
I've not read this author. Look forward to being introduced to her novels.
Bob Alexander
12. rx_alex
This one sounds like a fascinating mystery.
Johanna Appel
13. Hrhjohanna
I love this author! If you like Camilla Lackberg, you'll love her. I would love to win!
14. Lynette C. Thompson
I love a good mystery. The Day of the Dark sounds like a great book. I think Yrsa Sigurdardottir has another winner here.
Andrew Beck
15. queerbec
I enjoy discovering new lands and locales through mystery series that take place in unexpected and surprising locations. The mystery keeps the reader hooked, while the author's willingness to explore the personalities and habits of the people who live or work there adds to an understanding of the location. This book sounds like a great chance to learn about Greenland and Iceland.
Allison Moyer
17. The Loopy Librarian
I've never "traveled" to Greenland in my reading. I would love to go! Thanks for the contest!
Shaunterria Owens
18. shaunterria
I am sure a hungry-enough dog will eat anything, just as I would like to devour this book :)
Judith Barnes
I really enjoy books that are set in places that I haven't been. In reading them I get acquainted with other countries. As to the dogs and the dead body, I agree that it is a good question to ponder. My three standard poodles surround me on the bed. I must make sure that they are well-fed before turning the lights out. After all, standard poodles have been used as sled dogs. Please send me a copy.
21. Phyllis Lamken
Sounds great. Thanks for the review.
susan beamon
23. susanbeamon
the author's first question was a good one. i'm wondering if it gets asked and answered in the story. would like to find out.
25. Liz V.
Ofter read Yrsa's posts and comments on Murder Is Everywhere blog. Thanks for giveaway.
Dorothy Newmark
26. bookgirl1
I have read the first two books in the series and I love the character of
Thora Gudmundsdottir. The Day is Dark sounds like a great addition to the series! I appreciate the chance to win a copy!
Lisa Davidson
27. lldavids44
Love these books and can't wait to read the latest. Something about these countries makes mysteries so interesting and fun.
Toni Trees
28. toni trees
Fascinating setting and interesting premise; reminds me of a book called The Terror. Had not heard of this author and look forward to reading her.
Jane Schwarz
29. Janeschwarz
Never read any of the books, but would love to start. Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy.
Lisa Richardson
30. keizerfire
I haven't read this author before, but now I want too!
31. mosaix
Too cold and sled dogs-Yes!
Cheryl English
33. RoyalCheryl
Mysteries rule. Would love to find out what happens.
Phyllis Sinclair
34. psinclair
I enjoy mysteries with strong female characters. A new author to me.
Lisa Garrett
35. lag123
I don't think I have ever read a mystery set in Greenland.
Pat Murphy
36. murphyp2011
A new author to explore and an unusual setting. Need a copy.
d r almon
37. catladyofmacomb
This sounds like a great read .I am always looking for a new author/series to try. The setting will be something new. I would LOVE to win a copy
Clydia DeFreese
38. clydia
I love mysteries with tough female types! Sounds like something I would enjoy. Thanks.
robin goodman
39. rknrobyn
I have read her other book which was great. would love to read this new mystery. thanks
40. Linda Kish
Sounds interesting. I haven't read any of her books before. Time to start.
Kelley Tackett
41. tackettfamilyky
I've yet to meet a Scandinavian mystery writer that I didn't like. I'm looking forward to reading this series.
lynette barfield
42. lynette
Have not read this author. The review makes me think it's right down my alley.
Cindi Hoppes
43. CindiHoppes
Our oldest son owns two sled dogs and they are fabulous!
I love that Greenland is the setting for this mystery...
Many thanks, Cindi
Phoenix Vie
45. Phoenix
I'm not familiar with this author, but it sounds like a great read.
48. Neroon
I really enjoy mysteries set in different cultures.
Erin Hartshorn
49. ErinMH
This sounds marvelous -- and I love her wondering what would happen with the sled dogs and the dead body!
50. JackieW
Sounds like an interesting story. Thanks for the info.
Karl Stenger
51. Stenger
I love this writer. Cannot wait to read the new book.
Sally Winkleblech
53. sallyw
This sounds like a very good mystery, with an unusual setting. I will definitely look for this book. Hope I win a copy. I think a dog of any kind would eat a body, if very hungry and no other food available.
Post a comment