sat 19/10/2019

Sunday Book: Yrsa Sigurdardóttir - The Legacy | reviews, news & interviews

Sunday Book: Yrsa Sigurdardóttir - The Legacy

Sunday Book: Yrsa Sigurdardóttir - The Legacy

Unhappy siblings everywhere in superior Icelandic thriller

Yrsa Sigurdardóttir

Anyone who's followed Yrsa's earlier novels, many of them featuring down-to-earth attorney Thora Gudmundsdóttir as heroine, will value her superb evocation of very distinct and haunting parts of Iceland - the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Heimaey island, the Western Fjords. Sense of place is relatively unimportant in The Legacy, 2014 start to a new series now translated by Victoria Cribb. Sporadic references to the Icelandic way of life and recent history apart, its Reykjavík interiors could be part of any place where child welfare is a priority. The connecting thread in all the writer's work is her astuteness in observing human relations, the everyday mixed with the dark and devious.

Yrsa emulates on a smaller scale Dickens' preoccupation with dysfunctional families and abused or neglected children; everything connects, including the private lives of the professionals on the case. Which here involves an especially nasty series of murders, making one wonder whether this usually nuanced writer isn't jumping on the bandwagon of Nordic Noir in its gruesome decadence (in TV terms, think the ingeniously horrid demises of The Bridge as opposed to the psychological probing of The Killing). There's a sadism in letting us into the minds of the victims before the moment of slow, horrible despatch; perhaps more point in charting the revulsion of the detectives at the aftermath. Do the ends, as it were, justify the means? In that respect only, I wasn't convinced.

The Legacy Yrsa SigurdardottirThe technique is familiar with this author: first outline an event some time prior to the happenings of the bulk of the novel, planting in the reader's mind an awareness of the context which the police and child psychologists here don't have. That, of course, sets our minds racing towards the solution (chances are you won't guess the murderer). The cross-examinations of victims and witnesses are handled with Yrsa's usual perception, extended in this case to the very tactful portrayal of a nine-year-old girl who's witnessed the circumstances of her mother's horrific death. The author has done her research, with acknowledgments to Iceland's Child Protection Agency and Children's House as well as expertise on radio communication. Both sources should be pleased with the results. Indeed, to judge from the projected cover, this is to be the first in a series of "Children's House Thrillers".

The book was published in Iceland with the title DNA. The Legacy is a less happy choice; Legacies would capture the ambitious scope of the book rather better. At any rate the textures are rich enough to make this more than a simple whodunnit. At the same time the page-turner element is undeniable. So on the two most important counts Yrsa hits the mark once more. And it seems she's still not given up her day job as a civil engineer. Iceland must be very proud.

The connecting thread in all the writer's work is her astuteness in observing human relations, the everyday mixed with the dark and devious


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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