Winner of the Harald Mogensen Prize for Best Danish Crime Novel of 2020 Shortlisted for the Glass Key Award
A snobbish Danish literary author is challenged to write a crime novel in thirty days, travelling to a small village in Iceland for inspiration, and then the first body appears…
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, Hannah 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 Húsafjörður – 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.
Hannah, Hannah, Hannah! The lead character of this novel may be a bit marmite to some but I grew to like her more as the story, or should I say stories, unfolded.
After all her work and the plaudits she has received for her books Hannah is in a dark place. She really doesn’t understand how the books of Jørn Jensen, that she detests with a vengeance, can be so much more popular and profitable for him than her books are for her. Well, after all, they are merely crime fiction and badly written to boot! Whilst hers are works of noted literary fiction. So why haven’t they become more widely read, more popular and, yes, more profitable? What is the point of writing if no one is reading? Not that that’s the issue at the moment. No the problem, as Bastian her publisher is well aware, is that Hannah Krause-Bendix has writers block!
Everything comes to a head at a book fair that Hannah didn’t even want to attend! Even before setting foot into the fair Hannah has already been quite obnoxious to a woman outside over her smoking! Then she humiliates the intern who is working for Bastian and is currently trying to sell Hannah’s books. Then she realises that Jørn Jenson of all writers is about to be interviewed in person on the events stage!
As Jørn and Natasja Sommer chat it’s as if he’s speaking directly to Hannah who has an overwhelming desire to… splat! Flying just inches past Jørn’s head a copy of his new book smacks into a stand! Did she really do that? A verbal exchange follows and Hannah finds herself taking on a challenge to write a crime novel in a month!
And so Hannah finds herself travelling from Copenhagen to Iceland in order to find her writing mojo, write in peace and fulfil the challenge! This is going to be disastrous, the end of her writing career!
Hannah is met by her host, Ella, at the airport and they make the long drive back to Ella’s home where Hannah will be spending the next month attempting to write a book, a bestseller, a crime novel! What on earth will emerge since she has no idea how to write this kind of story never mind the fact that she hasn’t been able to write anything recently not even her own book!
Hannah is barely in Iceland just settling in wondering where she will find inspiration for the book when Ella’s nephew, Thor, is found dead and Hannah finds herself at the heart of a murder investigation! Who killed Thor? Why?
I really enjoyed this first book out in translation from Jenny Lund Mardsen with it’s wit, excellent writing, great characters and a fantastic plot set in the throes of an Icelandic winter Thirty Days of Darkness has urgency and tension. It is a beautifully crafted piece that draws you in through its humour, keeps you engaged with the poignancy of the story, has you gripped with the investigation.
An investigation that we see through Hannah’s eyes as she takes on the role of amateur sleuth and gets herself into trouble on a few occasions. Her persistence in wanting to find out not only who killed Thor but why he was killed uncovers a secret long and deeply buried that it seems someone will do anything to keep it that way or is that what’s really happening?
Then there’s the book about a book since Hannah is a writer writing a crime novel will she be able to complete the challenge? Will she survive the investigation? One that Viktor, the local police officer, begrudgingly accepts may be of use to him.
There is also a theme of isolation running through the book. That of Hannah in Iceland who has to communicate in English as best as is possible with Ella who seems to understand it and speaks a little but who mainly replies in writing notes. Ella is isolated too, living alone. Then there’s Margrét, Viktor’s wife, who is isolated by being a childminder in that she has little adult contact much of the time. Gísli, Thor, Jonni and others are isolated too. There is sometimes more than one reason for the isolation.
We are given red herrings, more death, attempts on Hannah’s life, missing, kidnapped people but it is only when all is being revealed in a very dicey life or death situation that the true awfulness behind the killings comes out.
Within all this is the realisation by Hannah as she investigates that she can be a better, a more human and a more caring person. Is she also capable of loving and being loved now? Has she written that crime novel? What is next for Hannah? I would love to read more of Hannah and what the future has in store for her.
30 Days of Darkness is a great introduction to the writing of Jenny Lund Madsen. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to more from her.
Thanks to Megan E. Turney whose skilled translation has enabled me and others to read this wonderful story with all its darkness, its terrific characters, its humour, the foreboding setting and bringing all of this to life for us.
With many thanks to Anne at RandomThingsTours for the kind invitation to join this amazing BlogTour for Thirty Days of Darkness and to Orenda Books for the eARC in order to review.
Why not take a spin around all these wonderful blogs to read more about Thirty Days of Darkness?
Published: ORENDA BOOKS LTD | 11 MAY 2023 | HARDBACK ORIGINAL | £16.99 |300 pages
Buy: Orenda Books | Hive | Bookshop.org (affiliated link) | Your local bookshop | Your local library | AmazonSmileUK
Author: Jenny Lund Madsen is one of Denmark’s most acclaimed scriptwriters (including the international hits Rita and Follow the Money) and is known as an advocate for better representation for sexual and ethnic minorities in Danish TV and film. She recently made her debut as a playwright with the critically acclaimed Audition (Aarhus Teater), and her debut literary thriller, Thirty Days of Darkness, first in an addictive new series, won the Harald Mogensen Prize for Best Danish Crime Novel of the year and was shortlisted for the coveted Glass Key Award. She lives in Denmark with her young family.
Follow Jenny Lund Madsen on: Facebook | Twitter
TRANSLATOR: Megan Turney is originally from the West Midlands, and after spending several years moving back and forth between the UK and Norway, she is now based in Edinburgh, working as a commercial and literary translator and editor. She was the recipient of the National Centre for Writing’s 2019 Emerging Translator Mentorship, and holds an MA(Hons) in Scandinavian Studies and English Literature from the University of Edinburgh and an MA in Translation and Interpreting Studies from the University of Manchester. She has previously translated Smoke Screen and Unhinged by Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger for Orenda Books.
Follow Megan on www.meganeturney.com.
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Thanks for the blog tour support x
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A pleasure to be part of this wonderful BlogTour x
Love the sound of this, but then I am a sucker for anything featuring writers gone bad…
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