THE DAY IS DARK
Written by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
Review written by Pippa McAllister
Hodder & Stoughton
Released: 21st July 2011
The harsh east coast of Greenland in winter seems an unlikely place to find Thora Gudmundsdottir, a Reykjavik lawyer, for the fourth in this series. She has been persuaded to go there by Matthew Reich, with whom she has a stable but not live-in relationship, to act for the Kaupthing Bank where he works. Thora's assignment is to assess Kaupthing's exposure to an insurance claim against contractor Berg Technologies, who they have guaranteed. Berg have fallen behind with the job and after a period of leave, their employees refuse to return to the site; the two workers who remained at the camp seem to have disappeared. All that remains is a disturbing video. This is not the first disappearance - six months earlier Oddny Hildur, a female geologist went missing without trace.
Arriving at the airport with a hangover and uncertain of what she has actually packed, Thora meets the rest of the group, including two who have been to the base before, one promising never to return. Their arrival at the camp confirms that it has has been abandoned - half-empty coffee cups, jackets on chairs but no lights, no sign of recent activity - but why? Computers hum, fire alarms bleep but the buildings are empty.
Talking to the two members of the party who have been to the camp before, Thora gets a picture of the harshness of the environment both inside and outside the camp. The two who are missing seem to have been the ringleaders in a series of "practical jokes" against one man - Arnar, a gay alcoholic. All but one member of the camp either colluded with or did nothing to stop the persecution. The only person who had tried to do something about the harassment was the missing Oddny Hildur; is her disappearance connected to the current problems? Thora's attempt to gather information from the villagers meets with little success, although she does gain enough trust with one young woman to be told to where to find Igimaq, a hunter who follows the traditions and beliefs of his ancestors.
Does the answer to the disappearances lie with Igimaq, who has been closely watching the camp, or does it lie with Arnar, now at the Stadarfell Treatment Centre in Iceland, trying again to return to sobriety? Or is the explanation closer to the warning given by Igimaq that the place is evil and that the group should leave - does this explain the hostility of the villagers whose warnings were ignored by the mining company?
The isolation of the area is reflected in the aloofness of the people whose way of life is under threat and whilst it is difficult to like some of the inhabitants of Kaanneq there is sympathy for them. The Day is Dark is at times dark and unsettling, dealing with alcoholism within the isolated community, the consequences of the lack of respect for the beliefs of the indigenous people and the challenges of being different in a restricted community. As with the other books in this series there is humour and warmth. Atmospheric, complex and compelling with an unexpected ending.