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Not as good as the earlier 'Thora' books
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.