A Danish literary author is challenged to write a crime novel in thirty days, travelling to a small village in Iceland for inspiration, and then a body appears … an atmospheric, darkly funny, twisty debut thriller, first in an addictive new series.
Copenhagen author Hannah is the darling of the literary community and her novels have achieved massive critical acclaim. But nobody actually reads them, and frustrated by writer’s block, Hannah has the feeling that she’s doing something wrong.
When she expresses her contempt for genre fiction, Hanna is publicly challenged to write a crime novel in thirty days. Scared that she will lose face, she accepts, and her editor sends her to Húsafjöður – a quiet, tight-knit village in Iceland, filled with colourful local characters – for inspiration.
But two days after her arrival, the body of a fisherman’ s young son is pulled from the water … and what begins as a search for plot material quickly turns into a messy and dangerous investigation that threatens to uncover secrets that put everything at risk … including Hannah.
Atmospheric, dramatic and full of nerve-jangling twists and turns, Thirty Days of Darkness is a darkly funny, unsettling debut thriller that marks the start of a breathtaking new series.
Hi and welcome to my review of Thirty Days of Darkness!
I felt drawn to Thirty Days of Darkness from the start. I loved the cover (did you spot Hannah in the window?) and of course the premise, which made me expect a Nordic crime story a little off the beaten path. I started it one evening, trying it on for size, and found I was already 21% in when I first came up for air. Safe to say I found it a compelling read from the get-go and it definitely lived up to my expectations.
Thirty Days of Darkness is told from the POV of Hannah, a literary author struggling with writer’s block. At a book fair, Hannah gets into a shouting match with a popular crime writer and somehow this turns into a challenge: can she write a crime novel in thirty days? Well of course she can! Any idiot could! Before it fully sinks in what she’s committed herself to, her editor puts her on a plane to Iceland, where she is to stay with an older woman in a remote fishing village, a sort of impromptu writing retreat.
Surely, a place as atmospheric as small-town Iceland will make inspiration bubble up like the geysers the country is known for and she will have a silly little crime story written in no time. Except that she didn’t expect to become part of an actual crime story, and that in lieu of writing, she’d be sleuthing.
At first, I didn’t get along very well with Hannah. She seemed to have both low self esteem and a superiority complex. She writes Literature, don’t you know. Which is infinitely better than popular genres for the masses, obviously. Hate is too strong a word but it was definitely dislike at first sight. However, as the story progressed, I warmed to her, and I also feel like she makes a huge character arc throughout the book.
A bit tongue-in-cheekily, the reader is also informed, straight from the mouth of the massively popular crime author Hannah hates so much, that the main character in crime fiction shouldn’t be likeable because no one likes a likeable protagonist in crime. Which made me grin, as it felt like a little nudge from the author, telling me: you don’t like her very much, do you, no worries, you’re not meant to!”
There are more elements like that woven into the story. To me, it felt like Thirty Days of Darkness is both honouring and mocking the crime genre a little bit. Like, although it raises some serious issues and valid points, it doesn’t want to take itself too seriously, unlike its main character. Which is actually quite charming.
Regulars of the blog will know that I’m quite the Nordic Noir fan, and while Thirty Days of Darkness is certainly that, there is something about this book that makes it stand out in the genre. Maybe it’s the fact that the POV is an author’s, a not entirely likeable one at that, which gives the story a bit of self-reflective feel. Or it could be the humour. I can’t really put my finger on it but whatever it is, it works, and it makes for a very accomplished debut!
Here is where I thank Megan Turney profusely for another fantastic translation, bringing this little Danish gem to an English-speaking audience while still clearly conveying this author’s unique voice.
I had a brilliant time with Thirty Days of Darkness. It is just such an entertaining and compelling read. I had no idea what was going on or who could be the culprit but I had fun trying to figure it out. I would definitely recommend it to fans of (Nordic) crime fiction with a twist (in the genre as well as in the plot).
Thirty Days of Darkness is out in digital formats and hardcover on 11 May. Preorder it directly from Orenda Books here.
Massive thanks to Orenda Books for the eARC. All opinions are my own.