Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Review of My Soul to Take by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir (2009, Hodder)

Thóra Gudmundsdóttir is a lawyer based in Reykjavik who has overseen the sale of an isolated property to a businessman who has turned the place into a new age hotel.  Only there is a problem -- the property is haunted and he wants compensation from the sellers.  Thóra is invited out to the hotel to investigate and whilst she is there the hotel’s architect, Birna, is found beaten to death with pins inserted into the bottom of her feet.  Rather than leave the death to the police, Thóra decides to investigate, stealing the dead woman’s notebook.  Soon she is advising the hotel owner, who has become the prime suspect.  It soon becomes apparent to her that the haunting and death are connected to the convoluted and tragic history of the family who owned the property.  However, uncovering that past and the killer is not straightforward for an amateur sleuth that the police do not trust.

My Soul to Take is the second book in the Thóra Gudmundsdóttir series set in Iceland.  It is effectively an amateur sleuth tale, with Thóra running her own investigation that parallels, and at times, undermines the police’s work.  The story is lively and engaging with a nice blend of various sub-plots concerning the contemporary investigation, the past concerning the hotel site and its former owners, and Thóra’s family.  Sigurðardóttir populates the story with a mix of characters that all have possible motives for murdering the hotel architect or lack a convincing alibi, and keeps many of them in the frame for a sizable chunk of the tale, slowly whittling down the list of suspects.  That said, it’s clear that it’s one of two people, and the reason why, from quite a long way out.  The Icelandic landscape also provides an atmospheric backdrop.  The pace is quite leisurely, with Sigurðardóttir spinning the tale out through a series of blinds, feints and tension points.  My main issue with the tale was the amateur sleuth angle - Thóra’s actions, especially with respect to evidence and the police, or why various suspects are prepared to talk to her, is not really clear.  Putting this issue of credibility to one side, the story is entertaining read.


1 comment:

Margot Kinberg said...

Glad you enjoyed it for the most part, Rob.