Today I am delighted to share my thoughts on Gallows Rock, the latest book in the fabulous Children’s House series from Yrsa Sigurdardottir. I’ve missed spending time with Freyja and Huldar. My thanks to publisher Hodder & Stoughton for providing an advance copy of the book for review. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
On a jagged, bleak lava field just outside Reykjavik stands the Gallows Rock. Once a place of execution, it is now a tourist attraction. Until this morning, when a man was found hanging from it…Available from: Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones | Googleplay | Apple Books | Hive
The nail embedded in his chest proves it wasn’t suicide. But when the police go to his flat, a further puzzle awaits: a four-year-old boy has been left there. He doesn’t seem to have any link with the victim, his parents cannot be found, and his drawings show he witnessed something terrible.
As detective Huldar hunts the killer, and child psychologist Freyja looks for the boy’s parents, the mystery unfolds: a story of violence, entitlement, and revenge.
I really do enjoy the Children’s House series by Yrsa Sigurdardottir. Well … enjoy might be the wrong way of phrasing it, but the blend of the dark line with excellent characters and plotlines that keep you absolutely gripped just work perfectly, even if those same plotlines also have the ability to make you feel wholly uncomfortable and bring forth a myriad of emotions towards some of the books victims, and I am not necessarily referring to those who are murdered. As you can guess, from the theme of Children’s House, the sub-stories do not always make pleasant reading and there is a sense, at times, that the ‘victims’ are not necessarily the most sympathetic of characters. That is certainly so of the victim in this latest offering, Gallows Rock, but, to start with, we just don’t know why.
Now I am used to the author’s stories being full of quite graphic murders and scenes that make me either do a double take or audibly utter an ewww to my rather perplexed cats. By those standards the murder in this book is actually quite tame, but no less forgettable. A hanging at an Icelandic tourist spot which, as the name suggests, was formally used for executions. Suicide or foul play? Well – we know the answer to that, present as we are as the man is led to his death, but why would anyone want to kill him? And why has a young boy been left alone in his apartment? Needless to say that it sets all minds whirring as to just what the dead man may have been up to.
Now this is the next instalment in the Huldar and Freyja series but, in truth Freyja really takes a back seat in this tale, her interactions with the young boy key but only really secondary to what is happening. This story focuses more on Huldar and the police team as they try to get to the bottom of a very dark and complex case. There are so many layers in this investigation, so many seemingly unconnected events that seem to contradict each other and to bring so many things into question. The things we find out about the victim are quite disturbing, but the boy remains as the one things that really doesn’t fit all of the things they are learning about him, the square peg in the deep and dark round hole. That uncertainty, the need to know what has really happened, kept me completely hooked to the story despite it being less gruesome than I have been accustomed too. Sometimes the most abhorrent acts don’t have to come soaked in blood and gore to make an impact and that is certainly true here.
I do love the interaction between Huldar and Freyja, the chemistry that exists between them, and this time around there seems to be a slight thawing in relations. Not that there was ever an issue from Huldar’s side, but Freyja definitely keeps him at arms length, and it always brings a smile to my face watching the ever optimistic Huldar making one more play. Even Freyja’s family gang up on her this time around, her young niece taking a shine to the Detective, understandably so as he is a wonderful character. Dedicated, honourable (mostly) and fun and yet ultimately professional when he needs to be. And there is some much needed light relief in the story when it comes to Freyja’s domestic situation. WIth her brother returning home she is in need of a new apartment and the one she finds comes with a rather unorthodox condition attached to it. It definitely has the potential to put the brakes on any budding romantic link with Huldar …
Although a bit slower in pace than the previous books, and certainly less gruesome, this book still kept me rapt. There is such a skill to the author’s writing, the way in which she creates tension and atmosphere and uses setting to bring and edge to the story, that it is difficult to put down. And she brings such a range of emotions out in me as a reader that I feel slightly battered myself when I finish reading. In this story it is often that which is undisclosed that has the highest impact, the idea of sacrifice and family and the bond between parents and child that means they will do anything to protect or avenge them. Truly powerful storytelling and characters I have come to love. What more can you ask for?
About the Author
Yrsa Sigurdardottir is an award-winning, best-selling crime novelist from Iceland. She began her career writing humorous novels for children but made her crime fiction debut in 2005 with Last Rituals, the first installment in the Thóra Guðmundsdóttir series. Her novels have been translated to 35 languages and in the UK she is published by Hodder. Her work stands “comparison with the finest contemporary crime writing anywhere in the world” according to the Times Literary Supplement.
In addition to several stand-alone thrillers Yrsa has embarked on a new series featuring policeman Huldar and child psychologist Freyja. The first book in this series is The Legacy, published by Hodder UK in 2017, followed by the second installment The Reckoning in 2018. The Legacy received the Icelandic Crime book of the year award when it came out and went on to win the Danish prize for best translated crime fiction the following year. In 2015 Yrsa received the UK Petrona Award for best Scandinavian crime novel for Silence of the Sea.
A movie based on her standalone horror novel, I Remember You was premiered in 2017, while adaptation of the Thóra series for English language television is underway.
Yrsa is also a civil engineer and still works as such on geothermal and hydro power plant projects in her native Iceland.
Author Links: Twitter