I spent five years writing about young policeman Ari Thor in my Dark Iceland series and wanted to write about a character with a completely different background and set of experiences.
Unlike Ari, who was twenty-four when we first met him, Hulda is a sixty-four year old female detective and at the beginning of The Darkness she is called into her boss’ office and asked to take early retirement. As Hulda suspects, he wants to make room for a young male office who will need her office. But before she leaves her boss offers her the chance to look into one cold case of her choosing. She decides to investigate the case of a young Russian woman who was found dead a year earlier.
I created the character of Hulda long before I started to write The Darkness. I made notes about her life right down to the smallest detail. I even wrote down the type of car she drove, a bright-green old Skoda, and submitted a single piece of paper to my publisher in Iceland to tell him this was the character I wanted to write about next. After that the Hidden Iceland trilogy – The Darkness, The Island and The Mist – was born. These books tell the story of both Hulda’s life and three different criminal investigations. We meet her at three different stages in her life, at the age of 64, then 50 and finally aged 40. In the first book the reader is made aware of the fact that she lives alone, having somehow lost her husband and only daughter and the mystery is unravelled throughout the series.
In Icelandic, the name Hulda means ‘hidden woman’, and she has had an interesting and complex life to say the least. Her full name is Hulda Hermannsdóttir. According to the Icelandic naming system, this would mean her father’s name was Hermann, but in fact ‘Hermann’ means ‘soldier’ in Icelandic and that surname was sometimes given to children of British or American soldiers based in Iceland. We discover that Hulda’s father was an American soldier, and in the second book she goes to the US to look for him. Being the daughter of a single mother, Hulda suffered the fate of spending her first two years in a children’s home, only seeing her mother twice a week through a window – a story inspired by actual children’s homes in Reykjavik during that era. Throughout the series we follow Hulda’s career in the police force, a male dominated workplace where she is constantly hitting a glass ceiling in her struggle for recognition. The series is told in reverse chronology as I found the possibility of going back in time to explore Hulda’s character and history in more depth very intriguing.
Have you discovered the Hidden Iceland series yet? Let us know in the comments below!