Source: Purchased copy
Publication: 18th April 2019 FROM Hodder & Stoughton
All he wants is for them to say sorry.
The police find out about the crime the way everyone does: on Snapchat. The video shows the terrified victim begging for forgiveness. When her body is found, it is marked with a number 2…
Detective Huldar joins the investigation, bringing child psychologist Freyja on board to help question the murdered teenager’s friends. Soon, they uncover that Stella was far from the angel people claim – but even so, who could have hated her enough to kill?
Then another teenager goes missing, and more clips are sent. Freyja and Huldar can agree on two things at least: the truth is far from simple. And the killer is not done yet.
There’s a reason Yrsa Sigurðardóttir is the Queen of Icelandic Noir. She loves to go dark and her books always feel contemporary amidst the Icelandic gloom . The Absolution is the third in her Children’s House series, though this book, like the others, can easily be read as a stand-alone.
Our protagonists, Freyja, a child psychologist and Huldur , a policeman, are still doing an uneasy dance around each other, following the less than perfect end to their one night stand some time ago.
This time, Freyja is called in by Huldur after a teenager is abducted in a terrifying manner from the cinema in which she works part time. We know this because all of her friends have received Snapchat videos of the attack and each is more disturbing than the last. What’s worse is that it is soon clear that Stella is not the only child who will be brutally attacked by this killer.
Huldar and Erla, his boss, are still at daggers drawn and so when Huldar is assigned the case he brings in child psychiatrist Freyja to help interview the teenagers.
Sigurðardóttir beautifully sets the dark and chilling scene as self-absorbed Stella goes from popular teen to murdered child. In a nicely complex and beautifully layered plot, she considers the use of social media as a weapon to isolate and intimidate.
Some of this is especially horrible, and gives us a glimpse into what contemporary bullying must feel like to a child. This is a harrowing and difficult subject and Sigurðardóttir plays it just right to elicit our growing unease and eventual horror as we find out the true extent of what has been happening.
The theme of bullying continues into the Police team. With Huldar out of favour with Erla, he’s getting the crap jobs and his poor partner, Gudlaugar is left to make what he can of their assignments. Even the Police are not immune from poor social behaviour, it seems.
As the team investigates, Freya also does some digging of her own and soon there are more potential suspects than you can shake a stick at. Sigurðardóttir cleverly plays with the reader’s expectations and it is some time before we understand the real motivation behind these murders. Just as we do so, she pulls the rug out from under us to create a heart-stopping finale.
Verdict: With her trademark skills of building a dark and creepy tension filled adrenalin ride, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir has written another truly immersive and engrossing read.
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.
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