Showing posts with label Author: Yrsa Sigurðardóttir. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Author: Yrsa Sigurðardóttir. Show all posts

12 June 2010

Now reading: Veins of Ice by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

Since this book has yet to be published in English, I have no way of confirming if Veins of Ice is the title it will be published under, but I found it on a reliable site on Icelandic literature. The Icelandic title is Auðnin (The Wasteland).

Here is a little teaser for the book, translated by myself:

They walked out of the shop, but Þóra stopped suddenly in the doorway when a familiar voice was heard from the direction of the security gate.
"If I can take one lighter aboard, why can't I take two?" thundered Bella. "What can I possibly do with two lighters that I can't do with one?"
Þóra turned back into the shop and headed in the direction of the strong liquor shelves.

Those who have read the previous books in the series will know that Bella is Þóra's secretary and the bane of her existence: a rude, crude young woman foisted upon her and her law partner by their landlord. In this scene, taken from early in the book, Þóra and Matthew are heading to Greenland on business and a very hung-up Þóra has just learned that Bella is going with them.

24 March 2009

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.

15 March 2009

Mystery review: Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

Icelandic title: Þriðja táknið (literally: The Third Symbol)
Genre: Mystery
Year of publication: 2005
No. in series: 1
Series detective: Þóra Guðmundsdóttir
Type of investigator: Lawyer
Setting & time: Reykjavík (mostly), Iceland; contemporary

Icelandic Lawyer Þóra (Thora in English) is hired by the parents of a German history student who was found murdered in the offices of the history department of the University of Iceland. They want her to help Matthew, an investigator they have sent over from Germany, to find out why their son was murdered and why his body was mutilated. Since they are not convinced that the suspect the police have arrested is guilty, they also want Þóra and Matthew to find the real killer.

The victim had been researching and comparing the history of witch hunts in Germany and Iceland and was the leader of a clique that practiced magic rituals. The mutilation of his body is connected to a magic spell found in an old grimoire, so it would seem logical that he was killed in connection with the practice of black magic, but there may have been a more logical reason behind it.

Review and rating:
I must admit that I had made two aborted attempts to read this book before I finally did finish it. In both cases I didn’t get beyond chapter two because I didn’t like the writing style. Not that’s its bad or clumsy or anything like that – it is in fact quite smooth, but the tone irritated me. However, it seems that Yrsa’s writing style is a bit like that used by Elizabeth Peters in her Amelia Peabody books: grating at first (although for different reasons), but once the story pulls you in it stops being annoying.

The characters of Þóra and Matthew are well-developed. Less well-developed are the characters of the members of the clique they have to deal with to find important information about the lead-up to the young man’s death, and most of the minor characters (with the exception of Þóra’s teenage son) are either stereotypes (e.g. the secretary) or simply flat. Þóra starts out as not a very likeable person: uptight, insecure, defensive and often rude; but she slowly gets more likeable as one begins to understand her better. There is an interesting balancing of power between her and Matthew. He is a friend and employee of the victim’s family, knows more than Þóra does about the case and has experience with this kind of investigation (it is hinted that he is an ex-police detective), but Þóra holds her own because she speaks both languages, knows the culture and the local laws and is good at reading people. Unusually for a detective story, her personal problems (single mother of two kids, broke after a divorce, a struggling law practice, a bitchy secretary) are actually interesting, because while they have little or no bearing on the mystery, they lighten up the dark and rather creepy story, and Yrsa is careful never to let them overpower the main plot.

The best part of the story is the plotting. The narrative is fast-paced and the twists and turns of the investigation keep the reader guessing right until the final twist. All in all, this is quite a good mystery. 3+ stars.
I have a second book by Yrsa lined up and should have a review ready later this month.