Saturday, 24 May 2014

I Remember You: Yrsa Sigurdardottir (Iceland)

An unmanned luxury yacht crashes into the harbour wall in Reykjavík. What happened to the crew, and to the young family who were on board when it left Lisbon? Thóra Gudmundsdóttir is hired by the father’s parents to investigate. What should she make of the rumours saying that the vessel was cursed? Where is Karítas, the glamorous wife of the yacht's former owner? And whose is the body that has washed up further along the shore?

I have read all of Yrsa's books, who is rapidly becoming my favourite Icelandic author and each has been better than the last. Most feature the lawyer Thora Gudmundsdottir an Icelandic woman who lives with her German partner and two children from her previous marriage in downtown Reykjavik and is a partner in a small law firm which takes on some unusual cases. In common with Icelandic literature in general, one has to know and understand the country a little to really get to grips with these books, not least the characters names and the places described.

At the start of the book I got the feeling that like its predecessor, I Remember You, this would be a ghost story, but as the story began to unfold it became clear that this was more of a mystery. When an unmanned yacht crashes into Reykjavik harbour Thora is approached by the parents of a couple who were travelling on the yacht with their 2 young daughters, bringing it back to Iceland to be sold as a repossession, to help them ascertain what happened. We learn that the yacht belonged to a bankrupt businessman and his Icelandic socialite wife, but when a body is washed up off the coast of Iceland and another is found on board the yacht the plot thickens.

The tension is palpable as the story unfolds - this is a book of two halves told in alternating chapters from the perspective of both those on board and Thora herself as the investigation unfolds and we gradually learn the identity of the bad guy and his motives. The two skilfully move slowly together in an orchestrated dance, first towards each other and then further apart as they gradually come together. The action is well paced but never drawn out with just the right amount of humour woven in to at times lighten the load - this is one of the things I like best about Yrsa's work how she manages to bring the mundane into some very exciting and sinister reads.

Although not as good as her previous work I Remember You, which inspired me to visit the remote village of Hesteyri in which it is set, this is a pretty close second.

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