Well this new series was my introduction to Yrsa Sigurðardóttir the Icelandic author who has come highly recommended. I wouldn’t say I’m an out-and-out lover of Scandi Noir, as some of it is a bit too dark for my tastes, but here goes, here’s what I thought.
The book opens with a deeply sad meeting of the equivalent to Social Services where three young siblings are separated to be adopted, ‘the only way to give them all a chance says the director, ‘they can’t stay together’.
The story then moves to 2015 when two young boys alert their neighbour because they’ve been unable to wake up their mother. There’s a reason for that, their mother is dead, brutally murdered by someone who has taken killing to a whole different level. Please dear readers, if you are particularly sensitive and prefer your murders to take place ‘off page,’ avoid this book. That said, this isn’t a book where you are bludgeoned by horrific images on every page there is too much else to be absorbed with.
The woman’s seven year old daughter Margret had seen the murderer and she is taken to the Children’s House, a centre where children who have been abused or otherwise caught up in a crime are treated and questioned, to give a witness statement there. The highly trained team which includes child psychologist Freyja, who I suspect may be the link we follow throughout the series. Freyja is compassionate without being overly sentimental and dealt predominantly in common sense which is how I prefer my protagonists to be.
Meanwhile the local Police force has been under fire with many of the lead detectives needing to keep a low profile in both the press and community and so it is that the newly promoted Detective Huldar leads the investigation into the murder of the young mother. He’s aware that should he fail, that will be the end of his career but when he quickly establishes that his victim seemed to have no enemies, he is struggling for a lead. Our Detective Huldar clearly considers himself a bit of a ‘lad’ but since it’s obvious he is so far out of his depth and he gained my sympathy as he kept on turning over those stones in order to solve the mystery. I actually think the better side of his character is shown by his pairing with his partner Rikhardur. He is not the sort of man to heap the awful jobs on someone else, he purposely watches the post-mortem as he understands his position.
In between the scenes at the Children’s House where Freyja attempts, fairly fruitlessly to coax some details from young Margret we meet a group of young men who are friends because of their interest in listening to short wave radio and it seems to one of the group, Karl that the mysterious numbers broadcasts are a coded message meant for him.
With so much going on, I became completely absorbed by this rich complex tale and never forgot that sad opening but struggled to find a link in the main body of the story. Instead the strands hear which all seemed to be diverging in different directions were skilfully nudged into place within the last portion of the book to bring the tale to its stunning conclusion.
I will be looking out for the next book in this series although I hope to explore some of Yrsa Sigurðardóttir back catalogue before then too.
I was lucky enough to be sent this book by Amazon Vine on behalf of the publishers Hodder & Stoughton and this unbiased review is my thanks to them.