Mystery review: My Soul to Take by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

This book is due to be published in Britain and the USA in April.

Original Icelandic title: Sér grefur gröf
Genre: Murder mystery
Year of publication: 2006
No. in series: 2
Series detective: Þóra Guðmundsdóttir
Type of investigator: Lawyer
Setting & time: Snæfellsnes, Iceland; contemporary

Þóra’s client, a hotel owner in Snæfellsnes (south-western Iceland), wants to sue the people who sold him the land for the hotel on the basis of the place being haunted. This would not be a problem if the hotel were an ordinary one, but it is a new age health spa and some of the staff claim to be sensitive to that sort of thing, the owner included. Þóra goes up there to investigate and prepare the lawsuit (or rather to dissuade the client to go on with it), but arrives in the middle of a murder investigation. The architect who designed the hotel has been brutally murdered, and when a second person connected with the hotel is murdered as well, Þóra’s client is arrested on suspicion of being responsible. He asks her to investigate, and she starts looking for clues that lead her to start digging into the past.

Here is an interesting puzzle mystery that utilizes Icelandic folk tales and beliefs as part of the plot, as well as touching on a part of Icelandic history that most people would like to forget ever happened. The book is full of interesting characters and strong emotions, and there are a number of people who could have wanted to kill the victims, not all of them for obvious reasons. The story does get a bit long-winded at times, with periods of little action and much reflection or descriptions of nature, but the plotting is good and the puzzle is satisfyingly complicated.

Þóra has become a more likeable character than she was in the previous book, but her personal life, while providing some comic relief like in the previous book, has now become too prominent in the story, as has her relationship with Matthew, whom she met in the previous book. His presence in the story is, in my opinion, not really necessary from the viewpoint of an Icelandic reader, and he is certainly not needed for the point of view of the investigation, but he makes an excellent vehicle for the author to use to explain certain things to a foreign reader without the explanations looking too forced (i.e. Þóra is always telling him things).

Rating: Another good mystery from Yrsa Sigurðardóttir. 3+ stars.


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