Today I’m delighted to be sharing my review of The Legacy by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, the first book in the Freyja and Huldar series. I loved the atmospheric feeling of this book and the dark nature of the story but before I expand upon that, here is what the book is all about.
The Official Book Blurb
Detective Huldar is out of his depth. His first murder case is like nothing he’s seen before – a bizarre attack on a seemingly blameless woman.
The only evidence is a list of numbers found at the scene, and the testimony of the victim’s eleven-year-old daughter, who isn’t talking.
While his team attempt to crack the code, Huldar turns to child psychologist Freyja for her expertise with traumatised young people.
Because time is running out…and the one thing they know for certain is that the murderer will strike again.
Oh my word, this book. If you are looking for a book with a very dark tone, one that will have you on the edge of your seat and holding your breath in anticipation, while simultaneously having you eyeing your household appliances with great suspicion, then look no further. The Legacy combines and dark and yet compelling story with wonderfully diverse and engaging characters, and a key sense of place and atmosphere. It was, in a word, brilliant.
Now I love my stories on the dark side. I’ve always loved those that can blend in a real sense of horror. Not always the supernatural, although lord knows I love that too, but sometimes just the depravity of human nature is enough. This book captured that essence from the very dark and ominous opening chapter, right until the shocking and brilliantly disguised resolution. This is not always an easy book to read. Even though not explicitly told at the start, you know that the three children we first meet have suffered terribly but it will take until the end of the book for the full extent of that horror to reveal itself. This is enough to set the reader on edge, but what follows … Well, it is certainly unexpected.
From the very first murder you know that you are faced with a very depraved killer. Someone who can take the everyday and turn it into something quite grotesque. In fact all of the murders are very wince inducing. Horrific. Very horrific. We may not be present when they occur but there is absolutely no doubting the terror they inspired in their victims, the way in which the author builds the tension prior to the act enough to leave no doubt of that fact. And the aftermath is very clear in detail too. If you are easily upset I advise caution. Rightly or wrongly (mostly wrongly), while making me wince, it also made me smile. This book was right up my street.
The central characters, child psychologist Freyja who works with the police to try to coax a statement out of the young daughter of the first victim who witnessed her mother’s murder, and Huldar, the Detective charged with solving the case, are two characters who I grew to like very quickly. They have an unusual connection, but despite the outward hostility, there is a clear chemistry between the two which I am looking forward to seeing develop as the series progresses. Yrsa Sigurdardottir has a real knack for creating authentic characters, and for eliciting an emotional response to them, be it fear for their safety, hatred for their cunning, or simply a kind of kinship with them, which is what I felt reading about Freyja and Huldar.
As for the supporting characters, they are as varied as they come. One especially, Karl, is a really intriguing character, one we meet repeatedly throughout the story. He is an outcast, an amateur radio enthusiast, who seems unwittingly drawn into the mysteries, fed clues he, and the reader, does not fully understand. But as it becomes clear … Well his is a story which may leave you conflicted in the end. Tragic and yet full of a little bit of hope perhaps. Dark tinged, but hope none the less.
One of the other key and most prominent elements of this book is the sense of place. The author does a brilliant job of creating setting, from the mundane environments of the victims homes, through to the descriptions of the Children’s House in which Freyja works. Every scene is used carefully to set tone, to build the tension and the apprehension which is felt with every page turn. There isn’t a single element which doesn’t add to the atmospheric nature of the read. There is a sense of foreboding from the start, and little by way of light moments in which to find any salvation or relief from it. But then this is a very dark subject, obsession, abuse and murder, and the tone fits it perfectly.
Although I have to say, for a country such as Iceland, where crime is considerably less prevalent than in many if not all European countries, I am beginning to worry about how creatively murderous its authors are. And if you want to start a series that demonstrates just how dark and devious Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s mind is, then this is a great place to start. I cannot wait for book two.
My thanks to publishers Hodder & Stoughton for providing a copy of The Legacy for review. It is available now in all formats from the following retailers:
About the Author
Yrsa Sigurdardottir is an award-winning, best-selling author from Iceland. She began her career writing humorous novels for children but got sick of being funny and found being horrible is much easier. She made her crime fiction debut in 2005 with Last Rituals, the first installment in the Thóra Guðmundsdóttir series and has since been translated into 35 languages. Yrsa has also written several stand-alone thrillers and has a new series coming out in 2017 in the UK. Her work stands “comparison with the finest contemporary crime writing anywhere in the world” according to the Times Literary Supplement. Her standalone horror novel, I Remember You will be in theaters in 2017, while adaptation of the Thóra series for English language television is underway.
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