fredag den 27. august 2010

Yrsa Sigurdardottir, My Soul to Take (2008)

This is the second novel in the Icelandic Thóra Gudmundsdottir series. I read it in English because my generous friend Maxine offered to send it to me.

Sometimes a writer comes up with a fine or promising debut, but cannot really live up to the readers´ expectation with the sequel. This one is different. The debut was really promising, but My Soul to Take is absolutely unputdownable! Five stars, nothing less will do. I won´t even try to write the review it deserves, just give you five reasons to read it.

First of all the English translation by Bernard Scudder and Anna Yates is of very hig standard. One sentence I really enjoyed was when Thóra ran into a tiresome man at war with the postal services. Afterwards her colleagues says: “This man phoned while the letterboxers were with you.”

Second, though the prologue is terrifying [bait # 71], it is also an excellent hook. Besides it makes a difference to me that these atrocities to a little child go back more than sixty ears.

Third, the environment, a remote part of Iceland with a modern (well, newly-built at least) health resort, a few farms and an old church was immensely appealing.

Fourth, the main characters were all credible and nuanced, especially the lawyer Thóra who is doing her best to keep her client Jónas, owner of the healt resort, out of prison when the police suspect him of having killed his bitchy architect. Jonas is just as credible, but also annoying, as he does his best to incriminate himself in his naive belief that his lawyer will save him no matter how silly he behaves.

An impression of the characters, the local beliefs and the sense of humour:

“Thóra interrupted him [Jónas]. ´Can you describe this “haunting” for me, please?´
´There´s just a horrible atmosphere in the house. Also, things go missing, strange noises are heard in the middle of the night, and people have seen a child appear out of nowhere.´
´So?´ Thóra asked. That was nothing special. In her household, things always went missing, particularly the car keys, there were noises day and night, and children appeared out of nowhere all the time.”


Fifth, the plot is of very high standard. The modern murder story is fine, but for me the most intriguing thread was the old story about the little girl who disappeared without a trace in 1945. And did I guess who did it? Nope. It was not even one of my two candidates.

Yrsa Sigurdardottier, Den der gravede en grav (2007)

Bogen er den anden i den islandske serie om Thóra Gudmundsdottir. Jeg læste den på engelsk, fordi min gavmilde ven Maxine sendte den til mig.

Af og til skriver en forfatter en flot eller lovende debut, men kan ikke rigtigt leve op til læserens forventninger i efterfølgende bog. Her er det modsat. Debuten var lovende, men Den der gravede en grav, kan man slet ikke lægge fra sig. Mindre end fem stjerner kan absolut ikke gøre det. Jeg vil ikke engang prøve at skrive den anmeldelse, bogen fortjener, bare give fem gode grunde til at læse den.

For det første er den engelske oversættelse ved Bernard Scudder og Anna Yates fremragende. Et underholdende eksempel er da Thóra render ind i en trættekær mand som slås med postvæsenet om placeringen af sin brevsprække. Bagefter siger hendes kollega: “This man phoned while the letterboxers were with you.”

For det andet: selv om prologen er skræmmende, er det også en fremragende madding. Desuden gør det en forskel for mig, at den nævnte grusomhed mod et lille barn går mere end tres år tilbage.

For det tredje appellerede miljøet stærkt til mig, et øde område i Island med et moderne (eller i hvert fald nyopført) helsehotel, nogle få gårde og en gammel kirke.

For det fjerde var hovedpersonerne alle troværdige og nuancerede, især advokaten Thóra, som gør sit bedste for at holde klienten Jónas, ejer af helsehotellet, ude af fængslet, da politiet mistænker ham for at have myrdet sin stride arkitekt. Jónas er lige så troværdig, men også irriterende, mens han fjumrer rundt og gør sig mistænkelig i sin naive tro på, at hans advokat kan holde ham ude af fængslet, uanset hvor tåbeligt, han opfører sig.

Et lille indblik i personerne, den lokale overtro og den humoristiske tone:

“Thóra afbrød ham [Jónas]. ´Kan du beskrive den ´spøgen´ for mig?´
´Der er bare en frygtelig atmosfære i huset. Og så forsvinder ting, der er sære lyde midt om natten, og folk har set et barn dukke op ud af den blå luft.´
´Og hvad så?´ spurgte Thóra. Det var da ikke noget særligt. I hendes hjem forsvandt ting hele tiden, især bilnøglerne, der var sære lyde dag og nat, og børn dukkede op ud af den blå luft hele tiden.


For det femte er plottet af høj standard. Den moderne morderhistorie er fin, men for mig var den mest interessante tråd den gamle historie om den lille pige, som forsvandt sporløst i 1945. Og kunne jeg gætte, hvem der gjorde det? Nix. Det var ikke engang en af mine to mulige kandidater.

9 kommentarer:

Bibliophile sagde ...

Good review. If you liked this, just wait until Aska (Ash) comes out in translation.

(BTW, I liked this book much better than the first one, which I felt was not very well written although the plot was good. From what I have been told, it comes out much more polished in translation than it does in the original Icelandic.)

Jose Ignacio Escribano sagde ...

I've got Yrsa right but thought it was 'Ashes'.

Dorte H sagde ...

Jose: and I though you just referred to the volcano ashes! So it was a great clue to the place.

Bibliophile: I think her debut was a good debut (read it in Danish so I didn´t think about the language), but it was nothing like this excellent five-star crime novel. My daughter says "vildt god".

Margot Kinberg sagde ...

Dorte - I'm so glad that you liked this book as much as you did, and thanks for this review. I really enjoyed the book thoroughly, myself. I agree with you that the setting is a terrific place for the events. I like the well-drawn characters, too. Oh, and a lot of other things. Can't wait until Ashes.... is released.

Dorte H sagde ...

Margot: I think I could have find ten things to praise if I felt it was necessary, and really, it was very hard to find even the tiniest flaws.

Kelly sagde ...

Good review, Dorte. It sounds excellent.

I was thrown at first by the title because I read a novel by Melanie Wells with the same title. Just looked at Amazon and there are quite a few books with that title!

Kelly sagde ...

Ooops. I just realized the book I read was My Soul to Keep (not take). Still, there were books by both titles.

Kiwicraig sagde ...

Nice review Dorte. This book has been beckoning me from my TBR pile for several months, but I keep having to leave it there as there is reading to do for reviews of just-released-titles and books of visiting authors and authors I'm interviewing etc.

I really need to get to this soon, methinks...

Dorte H sagde ...

Kelly: it is confusing when books share a title. But I am sure there is only ONE Yrsa Sigurdardottir :D

Craig: it is certainly my most exciting August read. Highly recommended.