>Yrsa Sigurdardottir, My Soul to Take (2008)

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This is the second novel in the Icelandic Thóra Gudmundsdottir series. I read it in English because my generous friend Maxine offered to send it to me.

Sometimes a writer comes up with a fine or promising debut, but cannot really live up to the readers´ expectation with the sequel. This one is different. The debut was really promising, but My Soul to Take is absolutely unputdownable! Five stars, nothing less will do. I won´t even try to write the review it deserves, just give you five reasons to read it.

First of all the English translation by Bernard Scudder and Anna Yates is of very hig standard. One sentence I really enjoyed was when Thóra ran into a tiresome man at war with the postal services. Afterwards her colleagues says: “This man phoned while the letterboxers were with you.”

Second, though the prologue is terrifying [bait # 71], it is also an excellent hook. Besides it makes a difference to me that these atrocities to a little child go back more than sixty ears.

Third, the environment, a remote part of Iceland with a modern (well, newly-built at least) health resort, a few farms and an old church was immensely appealing.

Fourth, the main characters were all credible and nuanced, especially the lawyer Thóra who is doing her best to keep her client Jónas, owner of the healt resort, out of prison when the police suspect him of having killed his bitchy architect. Jonas is just as credible, but also annoying, as he does his best to incriminate himself in his naive belief that his lawyer will save him no matter how silly he behaves.

An impression of the characters, the local beliefs and the sense of humour:

“Thóra interrupted him [Jónas]. ´Can you describe this “haunting” for me, please?´
´There´s just a horrible atmosphere in the house. Also, things go missing, strange noises are heard in the middle of the night, and people have seen a child appear out of nowhere.´
´So?´ Thóra asked. That was nothing special. In her household, things always went missing, particularly the car keys, there were noises day and night, and children appeared out of nowhere all the time.”

Fifth, the plot is of very high standard. The modern murder story is fine, but for me the most intriguing thread was the old story about the little girl who disappeared without a trace in 1945. And did I guess who did it? Nope. It was not even one of my two candidates.

Yrsa Sigurdardottier, Den der gravede en grav (2007)

Bogen er den anden i den islandske serie om Thóra Gudmundsdottir. Jeg læste den på engelsk, fordi min gavmilde ven Maxine sendte den til mig.

Af og til skriver en forfatter en flot eller lovende debut, men kan ikke rigtigt leve op til læserens forventninger i efterfølgende bog. Her er det modsat. Debuten var lovende, men Den der gravede en grav, kan man slet ikke lægge fra sig. Mindre end fem stjerner kan absolut ikke gøre det. Jeg vil ikke engang prøve at skrive den anmeldelse, bogen fortjener, bare give fem gode grunde til at læse den.

For det første er den engelske oversættelse ved Bernard Scudder og Anna Yates fremragende. Et underholdende eksempel er da Thóra render ind i en trættekær mand som slås med postvæsenet om placeringen af sin brevsprække. Bagefter siger hendes kollega: “This man phoned while the letterboxers were with you.”

For det andet: selv om prologen er skræmmende, er det også en fremragende madding. Desuden gør det en forskel for mig, at den nævnte grusomhed mod et lille barn går mere end tres år tilbage.

For det tredje appellerede miljøet stærkt til mig, et øde område i Island med et moderne (eller i hvert fald nyopført) helsehotel, nogle få gårde og en gammel kirke.

For det fjerde var hovedpersonerne alle troværdige og nuancerede, især advokaten Thóra, som gør sit bedste for at holde klienten Jónas, ejer af helsehotellet, ude af fængslet, da politiet mistænker ham for at have myrdet sin stride arkitekt. Jónas er lige så troværdig, men også irriterende, mens han fjumrer rundt og gør sig mistænkelig i sin naive tro på, at hans advokat kan holde ham ude af fængslet, uanset hvor tåbeligt, han opfører sig.

Et lille indblik i personerne, den lokale overtro og den humoristiske tone:

“Thóra afbrød ham [Jónas]. ´Kan du beskrive den ´spøgen´ for mig?´
´Der er bare en frygtelig atmosfære i huset. Og så forsvinder ting, der er sære lyde midt om natten, og folk har set et barn dukke op ud af den blå luft.´
´Og hvad så?´ spurgte Thóra. Det var da ikke noget særligt. I hendes hjem forsvandt ting hele tiden, især bilnøglerne, der var sære lyde dag og nat, og børn dukkede op ud af den blå luft hele tiden.

For det femte er plottet af høj standard. Den moderne morderhistorie er fin, men for mig var den mest interessante tråd den gamle historie om den lille pige, som forsvandt sporløst i 1945. Og kunne jeg gætte, hvem der gjorde det? Nix. Det var ikke engang en af mine to mulige kandidater.

About Dorte Hummelshøj Jakobsen

I am a Danish teacher. In my spare time I read, write and review crime fiction.
This entry was posted in Icelandic, review, Yrsa Sigurdardottir. Bookmark the permalink.

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