An Icelandic Mystery
My Soul To Take
A Novel of Iceland
by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir
Snæfellsness, Iceland, 2004
Murder mystery novels are a curious form of escapism. They have the power to transport one far from daily cares into a world wherein the reader can identify not only with the protagonist's struggle and victory, but also with the killer's depravity and downfall. The best of both worlds!
In this book, Yrsa's second, we revisit Thóra Gudmundsdóttir, a very clever lawyer who has a knack for getting involved with murders, this time in an isolated area of Snæfellsness. In farmland located between Snæfellsjökull and the sea a new-age hotel has been built upon the foundation of an old farmhouse and is troubled by bad "auras" and the haunting cries of restless spirits. Thóra is called by the owner to get an opinion on resolving these issues with the former owners of the property.
There has been a lot of activity in the Scandinavian crime-fiction lately, I've reviewed no less than five Arnaldur Indriðason titles, and have also covered Yrsa's first book. This one is considerably better, although not really in the bleak Nordic mystery vein. It is more of a traditional, plot-driven mystery, well done and captivating (I read it in one sitting) but not nearly so psychological or atmospheric as I would have liked. Part of the problem may have been me- I've spent some time in the area where the action occurs, and the memory of those places filled my imagination rather than Yrsa's prose.
Thóra is an appealing protagonist; because she is a lawyer rather than a detective she has more freedom in her actions. Interactions with her family, an ex and a lover all help to enrich her characterization. As in Yrsa's first book, there are numerous plot twists with mumerous characters (you might want to write a relationship diagram) with some real sadness in the multi-path story line stretching back over sixty years. There are plenty of suspects and some nice twists which help pave over rough sections in the plot. I didn't think I'd read Yrsa again, but this book was a pleasant surprise.
TOMORROW: Another mystery novel set in Snæfellsness.