My Soul to Take, by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir was born in Reykjavík on August 24th, 1963. She has a B.Sc.- degree in civil engineering from the University of Iceland (1988) and M.Sc.- degree in the same field from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada (1997). She works as a civil engineer, as well as being a writer of children 's books and crime fiction.

See video with her below!

Bibliography

  • Þriðja táknið 2005 (The Last Rituals, 2007)
  • Sér grefur gröf 2006 (My Soul to Take, 2009)
  • Aska 2007 (Ashes to Dust, 2010)
  • Auðnin 2008 (The Day is Dark)
  • Horfðu á mig 2009 (Look at Me)
If you want to get a job done, ask a busy woman. And Reykjavik lawyer Thóra Gudmundsdóttir is a very busy woman. Her 16-year-old son is about to become a father, her secretary My Soul to Take, by Yrsa Sigurdardottir has been working to rule for as long as anyone can remember, and she is stuck with an annoying client committed to quibbling about the height of letterboxes. She needs to get away.

Respite comes in the shape of Jónas Júlíusson, radio mogul turned hotelier. Jónas is developing an old farm on the remote Snaefellsnes peninsula into a new-age spa resort. His vision is to offer a range of services to the hotel residents - including sex therapy, aura reading and massages - in a tranquil, uplifting environment. One thing stands in the way of this ambition. The land surrounding the hotel appears to be haunted, and Jónas wants to sue its former owners. The down-to-earth Thóra doesn't believe in ghosts, but Jónas persuades her to take his case by offering a free stay at the hotel. When a murder is committed and Jónas comes under suspicion, Thóra must investigate the misdeeds of the past in order to solve the crimes of the present.

My Soul to Take is the second of Yrsa Sigurdardottir's books for adults to be translated into English. I for one am very glad that the work of this civil engineer has reached the English-speaking public. She is a compelling storyteller. Her special talent as a writer of crime fiction is to engage the reader at the level of the novel's characters. Reading this book (and the same goes for Last Rituals, the first novel in this series), I found myself in complete empathy with Thóra, which meant that I remained in delicious suspense until the story's climax. On the way, the narrative was by turns witty, shocking and exhilarating. It was never predictable. I especially enjoyed the way the various plot lines came together into a stylish and poignant ending. And as an armchair tourist I loved the distinctive flavour of modern Iceland combined with a pinch or two of the country's history.

I'm not at all surprised to hear that Yrsa Sigurdardottir has written a number of books for children. Reading My Soul to Take has returned me to a child-like state where, exhausted yet greedy, I beg for the storytelling to continue. Come on, Yrsa, tell us another one!

Review by Lynn Reynolds


Praise for Yrsa Sigurdardottir:

“Sigurdardottir delivers terrific clammy atmosphere and frequent frissons of fear; she is entitled to join the front rank of Nordic crime writers.” (The Times)

“Yrsa Sigurdardottir keeps up the standard . . . untypically, instead of the usual gloomy middle-aged man, her sleuth is a young woman . . . a personable heroine.” (Sunday Telegraph)

Ashes to Dust, by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

This is third book in Yrsa Sigardardottir’s series about Thóra Gudmundsdóttir, a Ashes to Dust, by Yrsa Sigurdardottir single mother and lawyer living in Reykjavik, Iceland. Ashes to Dust mostly takes place at Vestmannaeyjar (The Westman Islands), a small archipelago off the south coast of Iceland. Interestingly, the archipelago came to international attention in January 1973, when the volcano Eldfjell erupted. The eruption created a 700-foot-high mountain where a meadow had been, and caused the island's 5000 inhabitants to be temporarily evacuated to the mainland. This is the backdrop for the dark mystery in Ashes to Dust.

If you like Yrsa Sigur­dar­dottir, you will probably also like Asa Larsson and Karin Fossum.

When the authorities decides to dig out some of the houses that were buried when the volcano erupted at the Westman Islands more than 30 years ago, in order to create a volcanic tourist attraction dubbed 'The Pompeii of the North', Markus Magnússon hires Thora to try to prevent the excavation of the house where he and his family lived. When that proves impossible, he makes Thora negotiate for him so that he is permitted to be the first person into the basement when it becomes accessible. When it is, he enters the basement alone. Soon after, he calls for Thora to come down there:

Thóra peered at the floor, but couldn’t see anything that could have frightened Markús that much, only three mounds of dust. She moved the light of her torch over them. It took her some time to realize what she was seeing— and then it was all she could do not to let the torch slip from her hand. ‘Good God,’ she said. She ran the light over the three faces, one after another. Sunken cheeks, empty eye-sockets, gaping mouths; they reminded her of photographs of mummies she’d once seen in National Geographic. ‘Who are these people?’
‘I don’t know,’ said Markús...

The basement contains three dead bodies, covered with volcanic ash, and in addition a skull that had been kept in a box. The body belonging to the skull is missing.

Markús Magnússon, Thora’s client, was only a teenager when the volcano erupted. He claims that he had been asked to pick up the box for a woman who was his childhood sweetheart, and that he didn’t know that it contained a skull. Now he falls under suspicion and hires Thóra Gudmundsdottir to defend him. The case is difficult, and when the childhood sweetheart is murdered it gets even more complicated.

Thora feels the police are not doing enough for her client, and starts to investigate the murders herself. She travels to the Westman Islands, where she encounters a wall of silence. Everywhere there are omissions, lies, hidden facts and nothing is quite what it seems to be.

The plot in Ashes to Dust is clever, rich and very intriguing, with several surprising twists and turns, and Thóra Gudmundsdóttir is an excellent protagonist. Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s story telling seems to be improving from book to book, and I thought this book was fabulous – in my opinion her best so far; tense and perhaps even a little terrifying. This is outstanding, very intelligent crime fiction!


Internationally acclaimed author Yrsa Sigurdardottir takes watchers on a tour of her native Iceland while she previews her Iceland thriller, My Soul To Take, an evocative, suspensful tale that exposes Icelands sinister history.

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