Today I am sharing my thoughts on The Reckoning, the second book in the chilling and wonderful Children’s House series from the Queen of Icelandic Noir, Yrsa Sigurdardottir. Here is what it’s about.
About the Book
A chilling note predicting the deaths of six people is found in a school’s time capsule, ten years after it was buried. But surely, if a thirteen-year-old wrote it, it can’t be a real threat…
Detective Huldar suspects he’s been given the investigation simply to keep him away from real police work. He turns to psychologist Freyja to help understand the child who hid the message. Soon, however, they find themselves at the heart of another shocking case.
For the discovery of the letter coincides with a string of macabre events: body parts found in a garden, followed by the murder of the man who owned the house. His initials are BT, one of the names on the note.
Huldar and Freyja must race to identify the writer, the victims and the murderer, before the rest of the targets are killed…
I was, as always it seems, fashionably late in joining the translated fiction fandom party, my first taste of it coming after attending a panel at CrimeFest back in 2016. I’m embarrassed to say that it took me until late last year to finally read one of Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s books, the book in question being the first in the Children’s House series, The Legacy. Now, as much as the book made me highly suspicious and wary of everyday household items (my excuse for not vacuuming anyway), it was chilling, atmospheric and just blooming brilliant. A bit dark but packed full of mystery. Right up my street, so I was itching to read its follow up, The Reckoning.
Oh my. What another excellent (really, really excellent) book. The opening pages lull you into a false sense of security, just a child waiting outside a school for her father to collect her. You can still feel the tension building though, half expecting something bad to happen, for the bogeyman to come along and take her. It gives you the chills without really knowing why, and not just from the description of the dank weather. What actually happens … well you need to read but this isn’t a fairy story so don’t expect a happy ending.
Fast forward eight years and we are back with one of the main protagonists, Huldar, demoted following the mess of his last case and struggling to be accepted by his colleagues who judge him as cursed. Kept on the periphery of most major investigations, his life is dull. Until, that is, he is pulled out to a scene to investigate a potential disturbance, one which leads to a very grim discovery, the start of a chain of events which become progressively more disturbing and progressively darker.
I listened to the audio version of the book and there was one particular section where I had to listen to the scene about three or four times to make sure I wasn’t mishearing things due to the road noise around the car, my face contortions growing ever stranger as I listened, my overall reaction being somewhere between ewww and hehehe. I love how the author is not afraid to push the boundaries of crime, to take the most horrific ways to torture an individual and make them breathe on the page without being unnecessarily graphic of gratuitous in their portrayal. You get enough to build your own picture, and this is not a book for either full on horror fanatics or the faint of heart. This book can give you chills and no mistake.
I do love the characters of Freyja and Huldar and the way in which they skirt around each other in this book, Their relationship is what can only be described as strained. they are both very intelligent and perceptive people, both constrained by their respective demotions and hampered in their need to do right. Despite the clear chemistry, Freyja is reluctant to start anything and Huldar is scared of hurting her. They make a right pair, or they would do if the author would cut them the tiniest bit of slack. Perhaps they are too alike, stubborn, commitment phobic and independent, something which plays out perfectly on the page, but they do deserve each other, IMHO.
Do not expect break neck pacing in this book as it would not suit the narrative. There are some very uncomfortable scenes and situations discussed involving children, so do bear this in mind if this might not be your cup of tea. none of it is played for shock effect and the nature of what is written rings true to the harsh realities of life. That is not to say that despite the pace being slower you do not get those sections of tension, those moments where your heart rate spikes and you are taken to the brink and left feeling breathless afterwards from holding your own a fraction too long. You absolutely are. those moments of atmosphere and tension are where the author truly excels and why I would recommend anyone who loves crime fiction reads this book.
There are characters dotted throughout that I both loved and loathed, those who I could not get the measure of and those who I thought I knew and understood who turned out to be anything other than what I was expecting. This is a perfectly dark mystery that will keep you guessing with every page turn, have you hoping beyond hope for a positive outcome, all the time fearing the worst, leaving you in shock and awe at the end. Shock from the sheer clinical nature of the killer on these pages and in awe of the skill that Yrsa Sigurdardottir has to create such a brilliant piece of writing.
If you would like to read The Reckoning for yourself (which you should) it is available from the following retailers: