I’m getting emails from all over the blogosphere saying, “Well? You said you were going to find out who killed Birna the promiscuous Icelandic architect in Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s book My Soul to Take. Was it the Chinese stockbroker, as you predicted?”
Well it turns out he’s Japanese, and no, it’s not him, but he does provide a key piece of evidence literally as he’s walking out the door of the new age spa on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
He’s the one that first spotted the dead fox. That’s why his horse threw him.
Turns out, in Iceland, muderers don’t take any chances. They drug you and put you in a stall with a stallion with a dead fox tied around your neck, taking care to first stick a bunch of pins in your feet so you don’t walk the earth after death and haunt them.
Did you know that horses are driven to a frenzy by the smell of a putrefying fox? Not a newly dead one. A real stinky one. Makes them go crazy.
Or they might smack you with a rock, smash your face repeatedly with a canoe paddle and rape you with a state of the art sex toy, performing the same procedure with the pins in the feet, just to be safe, either before or after the rape; it’s not quite clear.
I likened Yrsa Sigurdardottir to Tony Hillerman for interesting characters and ingenious plots that tell you about a culture you might not be familiar with.
I would add a comparison to Sue Grafton, whose books I also snap up quickly, because Sirursdardottir provides the same funny insights on modern life and the same ability to show how the secrets of the past intertwine with the mysteries of the present.
She has great fun with the new-age spa and the aura reader and the mediums and the sex therapist and the owner who’s a real nincompoop who lets someone steal his cell phone and text message the victim: meet me on the beach at such and such a time. Naturally he becomes the prime suspect and Thora the lawyer has to get him off the hook.
Thora wants the horny sex therapist to keep her mitts off her (Thora’s) good-looking German boyfriend (who doesn’t speak Icelandic) so she tells her (the sex therapist, in Icelandic) that he’s impotent. It sounds like a funny subplot, but in the end it provides the clue that solves the whole mystery.
On top of that, Thora’s teenage son hijacks her camping trailer and arrives with his little sister and his pregnant girlfriend who gives birth and makes Thora a grandmother. What more could you ask for?
I loved this book, but I have to say, it had one switcheroo too many. The last little bit where it went from the farmer’s wife to the nicest person in the book was too much.
The bitter farmer’s wife (Birna was having an affair with the farmer) has been excluded as the murderer because Birna’s body had shown signs of rape.
Then, once it whas been shown that the rape was ‘artificial,’ she becomes a suspect again. It would have been better to leave it there and have her concoct a third devious plot to murder Thora. Instead Sigurdardottir pins it on the nice girl who has been taking care of her disfigured friend in a wheelchair. I though that was going a bridge too far, but that’s a quibble.
I have all kinds of quibbles with Tony Hillerman and Sue Grafton and Rex Stout and Agatha Christie, but I read their books over and over.
Here’s a video by Yrsa Sigurdardottir about writing crime fiction in Iceland.
I’m definitely going to read her first book Last Rituals, even if I have to go buy it new (ouch!).