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My Soul To Take: A Novel of Iceland [Paperback]

Yrsa Sigurdardottir
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

April 12 2010

“Top notch crime fiction.”

Boston Globe


American readers first met Icelandic lawyer and investigator Thóra Gudmundsdóttir in Last Rituals. In My Soul to Take, internationally acclaimed author Yrsa Sigurdardóttir plunges her intrepid heroine into even graver peril, in a riveting thriller set against the harsh landscape of Smila’s Sense of Snow territory. A darkly witty and continually surprising suspense tale that places Yrsa Sigurdardóttir firmly in the ranks of Sue Grafton, Tess Gerritsen, Faye Kellerman and other top mystery writers, My Soul to Take is ingenious Scandinavian noir on a par with the works of Henning Mankell and Arnaldur Indridason. Stieg Larsson (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) fans should also take note.

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My Soul To Take: A Novel of Iceland + Ashes to Dust + Last Rituals: A Novel of Suspense
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The second book from Yrsa Sigurdardottir is funny as well as being a taut and accomplished novel Independent, Books of the Year 'Yrsa Sigurdardottir brilliantly conjures an atmosphere of creeping menace and unreality.' Guardian This is well-written, pacey and wonderfully atmospheric, but the USP here is the character of Gudmundsdottir. Wry, very funny and valiantly trying to balance the demands of her private life with her work - she is a joy. I'm looking forward to number three. Guardian Sigurdardotittir delivers terrific clammy atmosphere and frequent frissons of fear; she is entitled to join the front rank of Nordic crime writers. The Times Both frightening and funny - a terrific trick if you can pull it off. Observer Distinguished by superb evocations of extraordinary landscapes and ... rivetingly gruesome inventiveness. Independent The numerous twists and turns are worthy of Agatha Christie and keep the reader guessing until the very end. Sunday Telegraph A suspenseful, sophisticated story Sunday Telegraph A welcome second outing for the good-natured lawyer-sleuth Thora Gudmundsdottir ... Yrsa Sigurdardottir's lightness of touch is refreshing Daily Telegraph on MY SOUL TO TAKE The novel is both spooky and gruesome. But Thora's distinctly chaotic private life provides a welcome contrast and moments of very black humour ... It's rare to find a crime novel that's both chilling and witty - an agreeable combination Andrew Taylor, Spectator Dark, rich and satisfying. Woman & Home Yrsa Sigurdardottir has arrived, fully formed, it seems, as something of a unique talent in the field ... [She] matches Tess Gerritsen and Kathy Reichs in the bloodchiller stakes. Waterstone's Books Quarterly 'Iceland is fast becoming a hotbed of fine crime writing, and Sigurdardottir is at the front of the pack. This second novel builds on her already impressive reputation ... brilliantly paced and expertly constructed.' The Big Issue More splendidly accomplished - and involving - fare from Sigurdardottir Good Book Guide --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

In the mystical Snæfellsnes region on Iceland's west coast—at a New Age health resort in a renovated farmhouse—the body of a young woman is discovered, savagely beaten, with pins inserted into her feet. Thóra Gudmundsdóttir, lawyer and single mother of two, has been retained to represent the resort's owner and prime suspect. But a fresh corpse is not the only abomination Thóra encounters here—for local legend says this place is haunted . . . and a bizarre series of inexplicable occurrences soon suggests it is so.

As Thóra digs deeply into the farm's past, she unearths a shocking history of evil and depravity—and her once-solid view of reality begins to waver. But a second murder, shockingly similar to the first, pulls Thóra back to earth by making two inescapable truths abundantly clear: the killer she seeks is very real . . . and is not finished yet.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Chilling Tale of Folklore May 15 2010
By Toni Osborne TOP 100 REVIEWER
Book 2 in the Thora Gudmundsdottir series

This Icelandic crime novel is a thrilling read, an array of intricately woven plots unravelling slowly and mysteriously. A novel that has all the essential elements to peak the reader's interest leaving him somewhat spellbound.

The story brings lawyer Thora Gudmindsdottir to a recently developed health resort to gather information regarding the newly converted farmhouse. Her client Jonas purchased the propriety earlier and now believes the sellers purposely concealed the property's haunted past, a reputation that hinders the success of the resort . He is seeking compensation.

Soon after her arrival, the situation at the resort turns ugly, a grizzly murder is committed and Jonas becomes the prime suspect. Thora needs to help him clear his name. While investigating she uncovers some very disturbing occurrences, events that happened years earlier and were deeply hidden... some of the disturbing findings set a tone of scepticism on her part. Are the apparent supernatural events real or tales of folklore? What else will be revealed?

This is a complicated mystery with intricate plotting setting stage for many red herrings. Thora is represented as a wonderful sleuth/lawyer/detective and the story has a cast of numerous and intriguing secondary characters. The tale has its creepiness and supernatural side that lingers long after the last page. "My Soul to Take" is a chilling work of suspense I enjoyed thoroughly.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  46 reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars exciting Icelandic amateur sleuth May 8 2009
By Harriet Klausner - Published on
Jonas Juliusson buys a health spa in Snaefellsnes on Iceland's west coast with the help of his attorney single mother of two Thora Gudmundsdottir. However, he fears the property is haunted so he invites Thora to stay and investigate, which she agrees though feeling he is being silly heeding local myths.

Upon arriving at the spa, Thora is greeted with the mutilated corpse of architect Birna Halldorsdottir who designed the new building. Jonas is the prime suspect since he sent the victim a text message to meet him at the place she was found dead. A second body also battered is soon found. Thora quickly changes her inquiry from ghost hunting to homicide hunting.

MY SOUL TO TAKE is an exciting Icelandic amateur sleuth mystery starring a wonderful attorney who begins to slowly find clues that lead to several suspects with motives. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the single mom finds the first corpse and never slows down as the brave lawyer makes her inquiries while another body surfaces. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this fine mystery while seeking Thora's last case (see LAST RITUALS).

Harriet Klausner
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Past and Present Aug. 6 2009
By Ted Feit - Published on
This second novel in a series featuring Icelandic attorney Thora Gudmundsdottir gives the author an opportunity to not only write a murder mystery, but to incorporate the history and ghost tales of the past into the plot. Thora is a middle-aged single mother of two and apparently becomes involved in matters other than her law practice.

A client, Jonas Juliusson, has purchased a couple of farms in western Iceland with Thora's assistance, and has opened a hotel on the property. He asks her to renegotiate the purchase price on the flimsy basis that something is wrong, such as ghosts wailing. She visits the hotel in an attempt to dissuade him from such a claim, but the architect working on an annex is found murdered and Jonas is arrested and charged when a second victim, an employee, is also killed. It's up to Thora and her lover to save the client.

While the plot moves forward, the reading is slow (I can't tell if it is the author's style or the translation) and there is a certain amount of repetition which slows things down. On the whole, the book is well-plotted, suspenseful and different, but, at least to this reader, somewhat laborious reading.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good reading! June 4 2009
By Amazon Customer - Published on
"My Soul To Take" is the first book I have read by the author, but it certainly won't be the last! This was a lovely mystery, with lots of well constructed red herrings! I almost always know "who dunnit," but in this one, I didn't see the resolution!

It starts in the 1940s in rural Iceland. A sweet little girl is killed. We flash forward to today: a hotel has been built near where the girl was killed (although no one knows about her), and there are questions of hauntings. Then, contemporary killing begins! Our heroine, a lawyer, goes on the hunt to figure out what is going on. I don't want to spoil the story for anyone who reads this review, so enough said!

This story is awash in possible motives, history, family gothic, etc. It is well constructed, with perfect pacing. If you love a good mystery, you will love this one.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No Need To Take Souls: They're Given May 26 2009
By J. Moran - Published on
The book's prologue, set in 1945, depicts someone cruelly leading a small girl to her death, a scene all the more terrifying because it involves no physical violence. Sixty-one years later, Thora Gudmundsdottir, lawyer and divorced mother of two, gets a call from Jonas Juliusson, a former client who now owns and runs a New Age resort on Iceland's west coast. Thora represented him in the negotiations for the purchase of the land for the resort. Now Jonas claims that the property has a hidden defect and he wants compensation from the sellers. According to Jonas, the defect is that the existing hotel and the grounds are haunted.Thora is skeptical both about the haunting itself and whether it can be a grounds for compensation. But she agrees to represent Jonas again.

Thora arrives and soon learns that the body of a brutally murdered woman has been found. The murdered woman was Birna, the architect for the resort. The police find evidence that links Jonas both to the original crime and to a second equally brutal murder of a hotel employee, making Jonas the chief suspect. Thora, as Jonas's lawyer, finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation and one with supernatural undertones. She works the case with her German boyfriend who has arrived to visit her.

The mystery is well-plotted and tragic as the original evil ruins lives when it is committed and years later ruins later generations. The characters are well drawn and come across as real people. All of them have flaws and good points.

The story meanders a bit in the early stages as Thora, lacking much information, flails around; but it picks up impetus as she learns more and moves to a complicated and exciting conclusion. Thora's romance and her dealings with her kids fit naturally into the story and are additions rather than merely distractions. The evil is scary because it is unnecessary yet readily committed. Evil is so easy. A good story and well done.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The past is always present Dec 16 2009
By E. Crowley - Published on
In MY SOUL TO TAKE, Yrsa Sigurdardottir's second book in the Thora Gudmundsdottir series, Thora travels to Iceland's west coast to assist a client who needs her help in a real estate transaction. He wants recompense from the people who sold him the property because the farmhouses he purchased have a hidden defect. They are haunted. Jonas has opened a New Age health resort complete with aura reader and he knows that the presence of ghosts will doom his venture. Jonas knows that there are ghosts; he has seen one.

Shortly after Thora's arrival, the police come to talk to Jonas. The body of a woman has been found on the beach; it is Birna, the architect Jonas had hired to build an extension to the hotel. She is buried under seaweed and there are signs that the killer knows the culture of the area. Thora realizes she must stay at the resort longer than she had planned in order to protect Jonas' interests but she is also intrigued by the boxes of old photos and artifacts that Jonas claims have a connection to the hauntings. Among the photos is that of a little girl, the ghost Jonas saw while he was looking in a mirror.

Among the ordinary photos and papers, Thora finds a Nazi flag, parts of a uniform, and magazines published by the Icelandic Nationalist Party. The past is very close to the present in this remote section of Iceland.

Shame, guilt, greed, pride, and love reach back to 1945 and forward to the death of Birna. Superstition and fear combine for another murder. And Thora is the anchor of the story and the solution.

LAST RITUALS involves murder and witchcraft and connects to the very distant past. MY SOUL TO TAKE involves murder and ghosts and connects to the recent past. Both are well-worth reading. I look forward to the next book in the series.
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