2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 4 June 2011
Yrsa Sigurdardottir is becoming more comfortable with her characters in this second book, the research isn't so intrusive and the translation much better than Last Rituals.
The main characters are more rounded and, like most series, the background family connections are developing nicely - although I am surprised that we don't hear a little more about Matthew, the German boyfriend. Maybe that is to come in later books.
The beginning of the novel, about an event in 1945, is suitably chilling with the child's viewpoint graphically described as little Kristin is taken from her home. I almost decided that I didn't want to read the book because I am not very comfortable with horrific events like this. Fortunately, I continued because I had already read the first in the series and hoped it would develop into a normal crime mystery. Maybe that first chapter would disappoint readers seeking scary psychological dramas - I am not sure about that. However, one is definitely drawn in to want to discover what the connection is to the present day and the murders that take place.
Iceland is a fascinating background to the story, although the names are quite hard to follow, some of them seeming similar to one another to a British ear and eye - the book probably would benefit from being read in a fairly short space of time to make that aspect easier to follow. Even so, there are really too many characters and difficult family relationships to make this an easy book to read. I think the author overcomplicates the plot near the denouement by taking us down a few too many dead ends. In a detective story like this the reader should be given a chance to solve the mystery and I felt a little irritated at times not to be given a fair crack of the whip, that lovely feeling that I have been able to work it out, even when I'm not actually right.
Nevertheless, I did enjoy the book more than Last Rituals, and I have high hopes of Ashes to Dustalthough I shall be waiting until the price drops to a more reasonable level for my Kindle before I read it.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 23 March 2010
I suppose, being Icelandic, that it can be said the author comes from that school of Scandinavian writers who have blossomed in the world of crime writing in recent years. But she has a style which is her own, and should not be pigeonholed so simply. She is a writer of both children's books and crime fiction. This is her second crime novel, using her main character, lawyer Thora Gudmundsdottir.
The story of My Soul to Take begins in 1945, and whatever happens in the present is influenced by those events. Thora finds herself contacted by an old friend and client called Jonas, who is setting up an holistic hotel on the site of two farms he has bought. He wants to know if he can get compensation for something not revealed at the sale - the fact that the site is haunted. Thora agrees to stay at the hotel to investigate, only to arrive just as the body of architect Birna is found on a remote beach. Before the police can begin to investigate closely, Thora searches Birna's room and finds her diary.
The background to the murder clearly goes back a generation to the two brothers who owned the two farms on the site, one of whom has a connection with Nazism. There is also the mysterious Kristin, who with the help of her German ex-police officer friend Matthew, Thora tries to track down. But soon there is another death, and a dynasty of politicians who want to be kept clean, and matters get more and more confused. Thora's investigation is not helped by the fact that her precocious young son runs off with his pregnant girlfriend. The life of the fictional detective rarely runs smoothly.
Yrsa's first book, Last Rituals, introduced the world to her lawyer and amateur detective Thora in a context of black magic and hocus-pocus. In this second book Thora has to tackle unpleasant family histories, and Nazism in wartime Iceland. What in both cases could have been a grisly tale, was handled with a lightness of touch due to the nature of Yrsa's protagonist. Thora is in no way a hard-boiled gumshoe, but can deal with unpleasant facts, and nasty deaths. The story pulls no punches, but does not wallow in grisly detail either. Neatly translated by Bernard Scudder and Anna Yates, this is a compelling read with a clever mixture of darkness and wit. There will be more to come.
Ian Morson Author of Falconer books and short listed for 1999 Ellis Peters Historical Crime Dagger
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I read the latest novel by this author (translated), I Remember You, and was totally enthralled by it - it was fantastic. So I thought I would read more of her works. I've picked up the second of her novels (I'll go back and read the first, but have got myself very out of order now!), My Soul to Take.
In this story, Thóra Gudmundsdottir is asked by her client to see if she can arrange compensation on a property he has brought, because he is convinced it is haunted. But when she arrives at the health resort, it is to find a murder has been committed, and something in the past is being covered up. But by who? And why? And what could it all mean?
This is a great novel - a mystery with a great lead character; Thóra is a real character, and I bet she'd be great fun in real life. She has a really down-to-earth nature, but there is also wit and an emotional depth to her. She embarks on trying to solve this mystery with all her energies, and Matthew, her partner, is a great sidekick in this story. Seems to me there's a great future for these two; hopefully the series of books will continue. This is totally recommended.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 7 June 2010
Yrsa was an accomplished author with a number of children's books under her belt before she branched into crime writing and dared to be compared to the new crop of Icelandic/Scandinavian authors, Indridason et al. Although engaging and literate enough herself in English, a second language for her when seen at Crime Writing festivals (she studied in Canada for a while) I felt immediately that I would enjoy her previous book LAST RITUALS but unfortunately I found the victim and the rest of the protagonists in it hard to sympathise with. Then the descriptions relating to the medieval historical background of witchcraft and rituals seemed overly long and unnecessary tedious, so that although it fulfilled the criteria of being quirky and extremely dark I thought the plot rather difficult to swallow, so I admit it was with trepidation I reached for her second helping, hoping I'd been mistaken.
Luckily MY SOUL TO TAKE was much easier to read and funnier too, devoid of too much padding, with the characters seeming much more normal, if only a little on the odd side, and the settings were more interesting in the remote Icelandic country/ seaside location where a new resort has been built and where petty jealousies and long held secrets hide. I doubted how she was going to take Matthew through a further story after Book #1 but she does it with ease.
I can now look forward to the 3rd.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I read and loved 'Last Rituals' so maybe my expectactions were too high for this one, but it did not grab me as the previous one. The opening is terrifying and leading to think we are in for a chilling journey. But soon we are taken instead to this 'new age' resort-hotel where we get to know some odd characters, including the hotel owner soon suspected of murdering the young female architect killed on the nearby beach. The lawyer-detective is his friend, so she agrees to stay and helps him clear his name. Then we get on this intricate, detailed saga into a complicated family inheritance and honestly at some point it rather lost me or I lost interest in the complex family links and past history. There is some further murder that tries hard to be horrifying but is not really. And overwhole I did not find the plot very interesting. What goes for this book is of course the great icelandic atmosphere and the quaintness of characters and settings, but is not quite enough to redeem its weakness. The German boyfriend is a very 'added-on' sidekick that does not in fact add anything genuine to the story but feels like a ploy to give the detective someone to talk to and to give her some colour throughout the story. Her own family problems also come on as totally unecessary and very superficial. Still it is a book I would not want to discourage anyone from reading, quite the opposite but one should not expect here the greatest crime story of the year !
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 9 May 2010
I liked this book, though I felt the solution was somewhat telegraphed. Unlike many books of this genre I didn't find it so dark as to be uncomfortable or impossible to believe. The tone was just right and the 'detective' character was a real human being rather than a cardboard cut-out as they so often are.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 June 2010
This is the second thriller by Sigurdardottir and though I enjoyed it and found it a quick read, I didn't think it was as good as her first book "Last Rituals". I like Thora, her unlikely sleuth, but didn't see much point in her German boyfriend this time round. I don't think her thrillers are in the same league as those by Arnaldur Indridason. If you like an undemanding thriller that's fun to read and has Icelandic colour, then do read this. If you really like an Icelandic background to your thrillers and want a more substantial story, then read all the books by Arnaldur Indridason.
on 21 November 2014
Prepare to be spooked and chilled in Iceland’s chilly landscape…..
Story in a nutshell
A mystery in the chilly, snowy and icy landscape of mystery, murder, hauntings and a lot of buried consequences..
1940s. Rural Iceland – Someone cruelly murders a young innocent girl.
Present day – a hotel has been built near where the girl was killed (although at this stage no one knows about her. The owner of the resort hotel is not happy and says the place is haunted amongst other faults. Thora Gudmundsdottir, lawyer and mother is asked to look into the matter and so she does.
There is an awful lot more guests at this hotel than it would first appear…
This story is awash in possible motives, history, family gothic, etc. It is well constructed, with perfect pacing. If you love a good mystery, you will love this one.
Place and setting
The Snæfellsnes is also known as Iceland in Miniature, because many national sights of Iceland that are popular and well known are actually located here including the Snæfellsjökull volcano. You can see it quite clearly fro the capital city Reykjavik on a good day and another exciting fact – its the setting of the novel Journey to the Centre of The Earth by Jules Verne!
Well, if you of a nervous disposition you may want to skip certain parts when reading this as, well, the sound of babies crying in the fog for example is not something you forget easily.
The supernatural theme in this book is quite fascinating though so I persevered as there’s something about a building on the old grounds of an area which has a strange and spooky history.
The air of strange and gruesome goings on starts when you realise just how the victim has been found murdered. Even before I got to that point though – the very first chapter seen through the eyes of a small frightened child was perhaps one of the most chilling for what it leads to.
I’m amazed I was able to continue reading - as vivid as my imagination is – but I had to know what happened to her!
The book is interesting on so many levels – the Icelandic setting is only one of them – but the culture and heritage as well as the mythology alluded to is quite interesting and there were many things I felt I discovered from the book. The role of Nazism in Iceland during the war was one. A bit too creepy and gruesome for me though but definately addictive reading for others!
Bbrrrrr Iceland is very chilly indeed!
"My Soul To Take" is the second volume in Yrsa Sigurðardóttir's series of 'Thóra Gudmundsdóttir murder mysteries'. The original was first published in Icelandic as "Sér grefur gröf (Digging their own grave)" in 2006; this English translation, begun by Bernard Scudder and completed by Anna Yates, following the former's untimely death, appeared in 2009.
Stylistically, the book is more consistent than its predecessor, "Last Rituals", offering a fairly standard who-dunnit murder mystery, with a nice touch of dark supernatural undercurrents to counterpoint the book's fluffy chick-lit overtones. The action for this volume is entirely within Iceland's western peninsula of Snæfellsnes, although an entirely fictional one of the author's own invention -- at least one hopes that the vague resemblance of the book's setting to Búðir, with its modern hotel and striking black church, is entirely coincidental -- with some interesting historical references thrown in for good measure. Thora's family situation manages to impose itself less on the story than it did in the previous volume, although still features to some extent, so that those interested in the on-going soap opera can be kept up to date with developments.
As with the earlier book, readers looking for anything of the minimalist ultra-realism of Iceland's other notable crime writer, Arnaldur Indriðason ("Jar City" etc) will undoubtedly find this story overly fanciful and unrealistic. Anyone simply looking for an engaging (but fundamentally formulaic) murder mystery set in an unfamiliar and unusual setting will undoubtedly love it.
on 1 February 2015
My Soul to Take is the second book in the Thóra Gudmundsdóttir series set in Iceland. It is effectively an amateur sleuth tale, with Thóra running her own investigation that parallels, and at times, undermines the police’s work. The story is lively and engaging with a nice blend of various sub-plots concerning the contemporary investigation, the past concerning the hotel site and its former owners, and Thóra’s family. Sigurðardóttir populates the story with a mix of characters that all have possible motives for murdering the hotel architect or lack a convincing alibi, and keeps many of them in the frame for a sizable chunk of the tale, slowly whittling down the list of suspects. That said, it’s clear that it’s one of two people, and the reason why, from quite a long way out. The Icelandic landscape also provides an atmospheric backdrop. The pace is quite leisurely, with Sigurðardóttir spinning the tale out through a series of blinds, feints and tension points. My main issue with the tale was the amateur sleuth angle - Thóra’s actions, especially with respect to evidence and the police, or why various suspects are prepared to talk to her, is not really clear. Putting this issue of credibility to one side, the story is entertaining read.