Quick trashy fun, a book I breezed through in a couple of hours. Much more of a psychological thriller than a horror novel, despite its nomination forQuick trashy fun, a book I breezed through in a couple of hours. Much more of a psychological thriller than a horror novel, despite its nomination for Best Horror in the Goodreads Choice Awards, which (along with a handful of five-star reviews popping up in my feed) is what made me take notice of it. The story is about a family who go to live on a tiny, virtually inaccessible island off the coast of Skye. The parents, Sarah and Angus, are still grieving after the death of one of their twin daughters a year ago. The remaining daughter, Kirstie, is coping rather differently, sometimes claiming she is her sister Lydia, leading Sarah to fear she misidentified the daughter who died. The perspective switches from Sarah to Angus and back again, each keeping secrets, each suspecting the other of terrible things. The 'horror' is minimal, though the setting certainly belongs in a ghost story: a half-derelict cottage on an island surrounded by mist, mudflats and mountains. There are some good creepy moments - especially the singing, and Sarah watching Kirstie in the playground - but I would have preferred many more of those and much less 'husband and wife lying to one another' stuff.
I can't finish this review without mentioning the punctuation. What the hell was going on there?! All those misplaced colons (SO MANY OF THEM), commas, dashes, double question marks... The other dodgy thing is that the plot eventually boils down to the idea that (view spoiler)[Sarah's sex drive is what killed her daughter. The references to Sarah always wanting sex with Angus are clearly meant to act as some sort of foreshadowing, but they make the eventual reveal of What Happened That Night seem rather more distateful than if they hadn't been there at all (hide spoiler)].["br"]>["br"]>...more
This novel is a standalone story, not related to the author's Thóra Guðmundsdóttir series. If you read the blurb for this English translation, the ploThis novel is a standalone story, not related to the author's Thóra Guðmundsdóttir series. If you read the blurb for this English translation, the plot is outlined in a manner that heavily suggests it has a horror slant; in this it appears more similar to another standalone book of the author's, I Remember You, than her crime novels. In fact, it has nowhere near as much horror in it as I Remember You, and is nowhere near as scary, but it's also much tighter and more coherent.
There are two strands to the plot. One takes place in the present day, and follows Ódinn, a single dad, as he grapples with the challenge of caring for his daughter Rún and, at work (the State Supervisory Agency, only vaguely described) investigates the events at Krókur, a care home for delinquent boys which shut down in the 1970s. He's inherited the case from a colleague who died, and uncovers increasingly strange and tantalising details as he digs through her files. Plot strand no.2 is set in 1974, at Krókur itself, and follows Aldís, a young cleaner who gets unwisely involved with one of the boys living there. But there's also the mystery of her employers and that rumour about their baby...
It's hard to get a handle on what I liked so much about The Undesired - I think it was simply exactly what I needed at the time I chose to read it. It flows effortlessly, and isn't hampered by the inconsistent characterisation and/or excess of detail that stopped me from loving the author's other books even though I found parts of them excellent. It has proper mystery elements (what went down at Krókur? Was the 'accidental' death of Ódinn's ex-wife actually something more sinister?) and supernatural traces which are helped along by the atmospheric setting of Krókur - miles from anywhere, snowbound, with things that go bump in the night. It all kept me turning the pages, and at the end I wished there were more books featuring Ódinn's investigations (view spoiler)[though that's impossible, as anyone who's read it will see (hide spoiler)]. That's another thing I liked - the dark and surprising ending.
The Undesired is eerie rather than frightening, and all the more effective for it. My favourite Yrsa Sigurðardóttir book yet. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
The premise: Paul Clément is a doctor who, as a young man, witnesses a ritualistic murder, and is forbidden to speak of it - if he does, his companion tells him, his soul will be damned. Years later, working in Paris, Paul believes the incident to have been nothing more than a macabre trick; he's also become obsessed with the idea of resuscitating the dead, and decides to conduct a dangerous experiment on himself. It's at this point he realises the damnation he was warned about might be very real after all...
First line: During the great siege of Paris I had worked alongside one of the Poor Sisters of the Precious Blood.
What I read: Part 1 (21%).
Would I read the rest of it? Sadly, this didn't hold my attention in the way I'd hoped it would, nor the way I expected it to from the fantastic opening pages. Part of the problem, I think - and it initially seemed like the opposite of a problem! - was that the epilogue is so engaging and exciting; when the story shifts to Paris, it just doesn't seem anywhere near as interesting. The narrator's voice is rather dry and characterless, though that does make sense for an account supposedly written by a Victorian-era doctor, and doesn't necessarily have to be a major issue when it comes to this sort of fiction. But I did notice, with some disappointment, that certain elements from another book by the same author - The Sleep Room - also occur here, including a sugary, somewhat offputting romance. It was when I reached an extremely gory dream sequence that I decided this was too 'horror' to be quite what I was looking for. I enjoyed The Sleep Room and would recommend it, but this didn't live up to that standard (and, at the same time, felt a little too similar). ...more