There is always a problem with observations. First, it is hard to get enough to make an inference and second it is hard to make random observations. Our inferences on Iceland is that it is full of awesome places and beautiful people. We weren’t in Iceland long but there are not many people there, 360,000 these days, and we were in the heavily populated part and went to see the men’s national soccer team play so we got to observe a really big sample of the Icelandic population in a short period of time.
After visiting there we understand why there are Icelandic tales about trolls. MWG or any of our ancestors would surely be mistaken for trolls compared to the big, beautiful Icelanders. The sparse population and the dangerous beauty of rivers, volcanos, geysers, and weather make it easy to understand why Icelanders are mindful of actual and potential tragedies. A local couple went there on honeymoon and both died when one fell in a river and the other tried to save the first. It is a dangerous place. We loved our first Icelandic writer Arnaldur Indirdrason and his tragic police sleuth, Erlendur. Erlendur loved the coldest of cold cases.
Sidebar: As the link tells you:
This is an Icelandic name. The last name is patronymic, not a family name; this person is referred to by the given name Arnaldur.
This makes it easy for MWG because we refer to folks by their first name all the time except for a few nicknames. Thus we have Arnaldur, Erlendur, Yrsa, and Thora to discuss. We must give you the patronym once because you will need it to find the books. End Sidebar.
So we decided to try another Icelandic writer, Yrsa Sigurdardottir. We shall properly refer to her as Yrsa and her lawyer sleuth as Thora. We started with Yrsa’s second novel, My Soul To Take: A Novel Of Iceland, because we couldn’t find the first. She has also written children’s books.
We take Yrsa at her subtitle that this is a novel of Iceland. It rings true to us. There is danger from the elements. There is the possibility of the supernatural. The sins of the parents and grandparents have an impact on the present. Children are in danger and sometimes don’t survive. The Venn diagram for dark soul of Iceland that Arnaldur and Yrsa see overlap almost entirely.
The Venn diagrams for Erlendur and Thora hardly overlap at all other than both are divorced. Erlendur is a brooding, damaged loner who is obsessed with his cases and unable to connect with his family or anyone else. Thora didn’t have a happy divorce and her children far from perfect but they are at least one order of magnitude less on the disfunction meter than Erlendur’s family. Thora is also working on a relationship with Matthew, a German banker, who provides some light touches and, because he doesn’t speak Icelandic, some opportunity to move the plot along. For example, Thora tells the sex therapist that Matthew is impotent to help the questioning process. It leads to confusion later on.
One small problem is that the novels are written in Icelandic and translated into English. It is English English so you get a few terms like “spanner in the works.” It is not a big problem but an American reader needs to pay attention.
The mystery slides through generations and a variety of interesting folks. All of the interrelationships convince us that this is the soul of Iceland. Iceland is a big small town because people rarely leave or enter. We are hoping that Matthew will be one of them that enters.
We recommend Yrsa and My Soul To Take. It has an Icelandic soul. It is dark without being hyper violent. Yet it has some joy in Thora and other characters. We are left with some hope that we can escape past sins.