Author – Yrsa Sigurdardottir
Published – 2010
Genre – Crime fiction
Having thoroughly enjoyed the first in the Thora Gudmundsdottir series (Last Rituals) I treated myself to the next book – My Soul to Take for a holiday read, and I wasn’t disappointed.
A grisly murder is committed at a health resort situated in a recently renovated farmhouse, which turns out to be notorious for being haunted. Attorney Thora Gudmundsdottir is called upon by the owner of the resort – the prime suspect in the case – to represent him. Her investigations uncover some very disturbing occurrences at the farm decades earlier – things that have never before seen the light of day . . .
This book begins just 6 months after the end of the previous one, and we find Thora battling with the boredom of the legal issues surrounding ‘letter aperture’ and the postal service. She is soon saved from this by a call from Jonas Juliusson, owner of a health spa for whom she has previously worked. Jonas is having problems at the spa and believing it to be a haunted he wants Thora to help him make a claim against the previous owners. Despite her skepticism the offer of a free room at the resort proves to be persuasive, and Thora agrees to help.
When Thora arrives Juliusson is unable to introduce her to the architect, Birna, who he believed would be able to help resolve the mysterious goings on, as it seems she has disappeared. When a woman is found brutally murdered on the beach, it turns out to be the missing architect (no surprises). For reasons perhaps best known to herself Thora decides to play detective! Already supplied with boxes of mementoes Juliusson had found at the hotel dating back to the early part of the 20th century, Thora also manages to sneak Birna’s diary from her room before the police arrive. Armed with these two separate sets of information Thora embarks on her investigation.
The story is a little like a locked room mystery – the resort is on an Icelandic peninsular so the cast of characters is relatively restricted and there’s limited access to and from the area. Investigation into Birna’s murder leads Thora and her gentleman friend Matthew into a complex plot which delves in the secrets of the locals. When Juliusson becomes a suspect Thora agrees to act for him and takes the opportunity to interview those who may have been involved. There are a number of threads to the story and quite a few red herrings along the way. And no – I didn’t get ‘whodunnit’. The story is rounded off nicely at the end once the culprit has come to light.
I find Thora a very engaging character. She’s a practical soul and doesn’t have much truck with the new age aspects of the spa or the staff working there. Her family is important to her and there is a story which continues from the first book involving her 16-year-old son and his pregnant (15-year-old) girlfriend. The book also has some lighter moments, which I think you need to balance the grimmer side of crime fiction.
This was a great read, and I’m looking forward to treating myself to the third installment.
Score – 4/5