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When a residential unit for disabled people is burned down, all the residents are killed bar one. Jakob has Downs Syndrome and a grievance - he never wanted to be placed in the unit and he doesn't like it there. It seems to be an open and shut case but, because of his disability, Jakob is sent to a secure psychiatric hospital rather than prison and it looks like he'll stay there for life. At least, until one of the other inmates asks lawyer Thóra Gudmundsdóttir to try to get the case reopened...

This is a very well written entry into the field of Nordic crime - Iceland, on this occasion - and the translation by Philip Roughton is first-rate. Apparently this is the fifth in the series, but it's the first I've read. The characterisation throughout the novel is particularly strong and Thóra herself is a likeable lead, strong and capable but with a soft centre. As well as dealing with the case, she's having to juggle home life as her parents move in on a temporary basis to a house already filled with Thóra's children, grandchild and partner, Matthew.

In the course of her investigation, Thóra has to deal with people with a variety of severe disabilities. Sigurdardóttir handles this well, managing to convey the difficulties they face without becoming overly mawkish or sentimental. Thóra's dealings with the relatives of the victims show her sensitivity, particularly when dealing with Jakob's mother. And her aversion to Jósteinn, the psychopathic child abuser who has hired her, grows steadily as she wonders what his motivation is for wanting to help Jakob. A sub-plot concerning a possible haunting is cut in to short sections between chapters and Sigurdardóttir's excellent writing makes this part of the story chillingly atmospheric and decidedly creepy. There's also a real sense of place in the novel, as the culture, weather and recent economic woes of Iceland all play their part.

Overall, a very satisfying read that, together with Läckberg's The Stranger, has reawakened my enthusiasm for Nordic crime. Highly recommended, and I look forward to backtracking through the rest of the series.
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I've been thoroughly enjoying this author's books, and working my way through them.

This story is one where Thóra gets involved with a case of a young man with Downs Syndrome who has been held responsible, through not convicted due to his inability to face criminal charges, for the burning down of a residential care facility and the resultant deaths of several people in the blaze. He is being held in a secure unit and one of the other unit residents wants to fund Jakob's retrial and release. Thóra finds herself questioning her decision to become involved with this entirely unpleasant man but her search for the truth leads her to some very strange places in this story. Along the way, there is some great interaction with her awful secretary Bella, who seems to be getting madder by the book, and with Matthew and Thóra's family.

These are absolutely fantastic books; the storyline is utterly enthralling (I read this book in less than 2 days, because I couldn't put it down), the characters are engaging, and the way the author weaves in some slightly eerie and weird circumstances into what appear on the surface to be more cut-and-dried legal cases really ramps up the tension. This is absolutely utterly wholeheartedly recommended, as are all of Yrsa Sigurdardottir's books.
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I've been thoroughly enjoying this author's books, and working my way through them, so was very excited to get hold of her latest publication (translated into English, even though I'm guessing it may have originally been published in Icelandic earlier than that, as the narrative covers the period 2008 to 2010).

This story is one where Thóra gets involved with a case of a young man with Downs Syndrome who has been held responsible, through not convicted due to his inability to face criminal charges, for the burning down of a residential care facility and the resultant deaths of several people in the blaze. He is being held in a secure unit and one of the other unit residents wants to fund Jakob's retrial and release. Thóra finds herself questioning her decision to become involved with this entirely unpleasant man but her search for the truth leads her to some very strange places in this story. Along the way, there is some great interaction with her awful secretary Bella, who seems to be getting madder by the book, and with Matthew and Thóra's family.

These are absolutely fantastic books; the storyline is utterly enthralling (I read this book in less than 2 days, because I couldn't put it down), the characters are engaging, and the way the author weaves in some slightly eerie and weird circumstances into what appear on the surface to be more cut-and-dried legal cases really ramps up the tension. This is absolutely utterly wholeheartedly recommended, as are all of Yrsa Sigurdardottir's books.
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on 17 May 2013
This is the fifth novel featuring the personable Reykjavik lawyer,
Thora Gudmundsdottir.
Josteinn is a manipulative sociopath who resides in a secure psychiatric
unit,having been convicted of sexual offences against children.With his
inheritence money he instructs Thora to investigate,with a view to
overturning,the conviction of a fellow inmate Jakob. Jakob is a young
male with Down's syndrome who has been found guilty of burning down his
care home ,killing five people.
The ever persistent Thora's investigations are hampered by some of the
witnesses having severe disablilities,including one with locked-in
syndrome,and also by the lies,half-truths,and cover-ups from people
with their own interests to protect.
A brave unusual and thoughtful thriller.
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on 30 March 2014
Ysra is a wonderful and complete story teller. This is part ghost story, really scary at times and part crime mystery where the many layered plot reveal more crimes and incidents.
Following the horrific burning down of a residential care home; parties involved seem to be happy to rush to justice and a young man with Down's syndrome is found guilty of the arson, albeit not criminally liable.
He is sent to a psychiatric unit where another resident befriends him and engages lawyer Thora Gudmundsdottir to look into Jacob's case and prove his innocence.
All of Iceland's recent financial woes are cleverly linked in a number of references and through the lives of her characters who are struggling due to the economical downturn.
I liked the the straight forward linear story that paralleled Thora's investigation with the reader's own understanding; the exception is the frightening opening of haunting and paranormal events. This is spine-chilling and places you back reading "I Remember You" with 'all the lights on'. Another positive is that different stories are told outside of Thora's account that add depth to the novel without revealing any real insight to crack the case.
A great read from this accomplished novelist who continues to produce quality thrillers.
One of the few author's around I would like to meet. She has the power to make this grown man, through her writing, very scared; I'd like to normalise that and thank her personally for her profound writing.
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on 13 July 2013
I would have liked to give this one three and a half stars - but it's not an option so felt it fairer to go for the lower mark as I would have given the earlier books in this series 4 or 5 stars (and now feel very guilty that I didn't post a review for them).
This book combines the character of Thora, the lawyer, from Yrsa's first four books, with a dash of the supernatural from her last novel. In an Iceland that has just imploded following the financial crash, Thora is asked to take on the case of Jakob,a young man with Down's Syndrome who has been confined in a secure psychiatric institution for burning down the care home where he'd been placed against his mother's wishes. The home itself is a ridiculous example of political correctness gone mad; patients with wildly differing conditions from autism, Down's syndrome and locked in syndrome are all housed together in a set up that has no advantage for any of them; and eventually leads to most of them being killed when fire sweeps through the building.
The entire book is filled with characters who have been affected by the recession and even the landscapes and cityscapes are described with a bleakness that reflects the overall mood of a country that has seen the dream go bust.
As Thora delves into the case, she uncovers evidence of nasty dealings at the home and plenty of people who'd like the entire matter to be left quietly swept under the carpet. On Jakob's side are only his mother (who had neither the financial or personal clout to prevent Jakob being accused in the first place) and a very unpleasant convicted sexual predator.
I've always been a fan of the previous Thora books but to be honest found this one was less engaging; it was hard to like any of the characters involved, who were either unpleasant, self-seeking or just plain dead (not that that deterred at least one of them from joining in the fun). And unlike the previous novels, there was nothing new to learn about Iceland (although the mystery itself was competently handled). If you are new to the author I'd suggest you start with the earlier Thora novels, otherwise you might find it difficult to sort out some of Thora's family and personal relationships.
My main problem with this book, however, is the overall tone of the writing. Previously I'd enjoyed the books because there was an edge of humour mixed in the with the nastiness, that lifted them above the usual Scandi-type crime. It seems to be largely missing in this one; perhaps deliberately in view of the financial disaster that has overtaken the population - but personally I missed it. Hopefully it will be back by the next book.
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on 24 June 2015
I've been impressed by the efforts of previous reviewers to summarise the plot, without giving away the ending. But in truth they manage only to summarise some strands of a highly complex & original work. The blurb summary - "creepy, compelling thriller" - gets nowhere near close enough. "Creepy" refers to the opening riff which introduces a ghost-haunting theme. "Compelling" is certainly one way of describing the quality of the writing but does not pay the tribute owed to the writer's originality & complexity. It is impossible to see where the plot is going for at least 90% of the book's length; & in the last 10% the author seemingly gives - & then retracts - an amazing variety of endings, finally (after the real denouement) going back to the ghost theme! I'm becoming more & more seduced by the Thora character (admirably offset by the qualities of her partner, the very grounded German Matthew. He is, clearly, there so the author can gently tease him for his more Teutonic moments which contrast with Thora's own dishevelled life-style). The Agatha Christie era airily invented "private investigators" of independent means to contrast with the bumbling efforts of the regular constabulary. That concept doesn't sell well in the modern era where gentlemen of independent means are more plausibly seen as bent on increasing their wealth or second-generation types of a sybaritic disposition. Thora, a lawyer in a post-bust Iceland, has to earn her living. Implausibly, the most disgusting character in the book offers to finance her investigation (for the benefit of the Downs-afflicted Jacob). The one loose end for me was - did she get paid? I fear she might not have been. Please will the author tell me in the next novel so I can stop worrying on Thora's behalf? And above all, will she please give us more (though, personally, I could do without Bella - who deserves the sack many times over. It strains credibility that even the sainted Thora can put up with her - OK, I know it is done for comic effect & very effective it is, too). My one real criticism is grammatical - & that must therefore go down to the translator. I have no idea how close the translator is to catching the idiom employed in the original Icelandic: but I have no quarrel with the demotic (as opposed to literary) language employed - it seems to me to suit the down-to-earth qualities of Thora. Perhaps the translator has therefore deliberately employed the constantly repeating grammatical error which so annoyed me, exemplified by this phrase" ... although she knew he wasn't quite as pleased as her." It seems to me that the translator is more likely to have started with whatever the Icelandic would be for the grammatically correct "he wasn't quite as pleased as SHE was". Why then, annoyingly, end the phrase with the incorrect HER?
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on 10 February 2015
Jakob was born with Down's Syndrome and lived most of his life with his mother but as he grew towards adulthood the expense and difficulty of caring for Jakob meant that the Icelandic state decided he should move to a facility for disabled people. Jakob resented this and one night the home burnt down, killing all the residents except Jakob. Convicted of murder Jakob has been placed in a secure unit. However one man believes he is innocent, the only problem is that he is a psychopath. Jakob's case is taken on by Thora Gudmundsdottir, a lawyer with a chaotic life but a passion for the truth. As she peels away the layers surrounding the case it is clear that there are people with much to hide.

This book was widely acclaimed as one of the best crime novels of last year and, whilst I wouldn't regard it that highly, it is a really good read. There is a sense of time and place but rather than focusing on Iceland's landscape and beauty, this novel uses the Icelandic banking crash to influence approaches and decisions and is better because of that. The attitude of the public, and many in authority, to the special needs of the home's residents are highlighted. Whilst it would be easy for Sigurdardottir to focus on the psychopathic nature of one of her characters, the approach is gently restrained.
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on 27 July 2013
Unlike a previous reviewer, I thought this was the best of Yrsa Sigurdardottir's 'Thora' books, from a technical point of view at least. I've often previously had the feeling that while her characters were well fleshed out and the dialogue good -- I'm thinking here particularly of the exchanges between Thora and Matthew -- the plots were less satisfactory and a bit clunky. (Compare this one with her first, Last Rituals, for example.)

What she has got spot-on here is a plot that is feasible and falls neatly into place. And to that she has added a supernatural dimension, which she makes it possible for you to discount or not, according to your taste, by providing an alternative rational explanation for anything 'ghostly'.

Cheerful it is not, however. Maybe in the Iceland of the time she was writing that was not to be expected, but this is an unremittingly dark book, with quite a few unpleasant characters. The only offset to that comes in the certainty at the end that the guilty are about to get their just desserts.
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This was my first experience with author Yrsa Sigurdardottir's work and I have joined the ranks of her many admirers. She has a real gift for imaginative narrative and believable interaction and dialogue between her characters. "Someone to Watch Over Me" took a lot of research into the area of disabilities and the investment paid off as there seems to be nary a false note in the descriptions of patients, their families and the care facilities that are all at the center of this crime novel.

The protagonist of the story is Thora Gudmundsdottir, a Reykjavik lawyer who is employed to reopen the case of a young man with Downs' Syndrome convicted of the arson killing of several co-residents in a group house for the severely disabled. The story follows a relatively conventional procedural structure, but is highly original in its characters and setting. The humanity of the characters (virtues and flaws) drives the novel and makes it credible and satisfying to the last page. A really good read.
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