Review: Yrsa Sigurðardóttir – Someone to Watch Over Me

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir is one of my ‘must read’ writers. Her series featuring lawyer Thóra Gudmundsdóttir has been consistently strong YSwith solid plots that provide a clear-eyed view of modern Iceland. The last book I reviewed was a departure for Yrsa. I Remember You was a supernatural thriller that, while enjoyable, didn’t feel quite as innovative as her crime books. However her latest offering, Someone to Watch Over Me, is a return to form and another Scandinavian book that deals with the devastating effect of fire.

Jakob, a young man with Down’s syndrome is convicted of starting a fire that burned down his care home, killing five people. He is sent to a psychiatric unit where one of his fellow inmates is convinced of his innocence. However, Josteinn is psychopath who repulses those he comes into contact with. Thora is reluctant to take on the case but soon becomes convinced that a cover-up has taken place and that the murderer is still at large. However, a key witness is suffering from locked-in syndrome and struggles to communicate the true version of events of the fateful fire.

Part of the charm of this series is the way in which the personality of Thóra Gudmundsdóttir is allowed to direct the narrative. We get a strong sense of Thora’s personal struggle with the official version of events, the way in which the police investigation is handled and the problems associated in dealing with a client who is a multiple murderer. All of this shapes the course of events as Thora digs deeper into the past. I was initially concerned about yet another portrayal of a victim with locked-in syndrome. It is such a rare illness and yet is seems to pop up with relative ease in crime novels. However, here it was handled well and there are no easy solutions for the victim.

The book gives a fairly damning portrait of social service care in Iceland. Patients with multiple and differing needs are lumped together in institutions that fail to adequately care for patients. It is left to families to try to unlock solutions to their children’s conditions and in this atmosphere poor judgements are made.

The book is an excellent read in a series that goes from strength to strength.

19 thoughts on “Review: Yrsa Sigurðardóttir – Someone to Watch Over Me

  1. Margot Kinberg

    Sarah – Oh, I’m a Yrsa fan too. I like this particular series very much .And along with Thóra’s personality, which you’ve discussed so well here, I think it’s the wit and of course the solid plots that keep me coming back. A good slice of Icelandic life too.


  2. This was the first of Sigurdardottir’s books that I read and I was very impressed. I’m looking forward to backtracking to the earlier books, though I must admit I Remember You sounds intriguing – I thought the ‘creepy’ bits in Someone to Watch were done really effectively.


  3. Sarah, nice review. I am sure I will read this series altho I don’t think I have any of the books yet. Iceland is very interesting. But I am not so sure about the creepy parts.


  4. The last Sigurardottir I read was in the summer of 2011–My Soul to Take. I enjoyed it thoroughly, but I’m not sure which of hers to read next. I’ll need to consult her website, Barnes and Noble, and my Nordic Noir books. I like the “creepiness” of her books. They’re always just a little bit different and very, very intriguing.



    1. Yes they are intriguing, Judith. I think that they can be read in any order as, although there is a focus on her private life, it is unusually stable for a crime fiction heroine.


  5. vicki (skiourophile / bibliolathas)

    I’ve not read any of her books yet, and I wonder why I’ve missed her so far – but I shall do something about that. I do like to be creeped out too! (I agree about the ‘rare illness’ motif in so many books. I sometimes think, “Cheating!”)


  6. kathy d.

    I am thrilled that Fred Vargas won the CWA Dagger Award, even if it was shared with another writer. She is brilliant! I still miss Adamsberg, Danglard, Retancourt and the rest — and I miss Normandy.


  7. Pingback: The Best of July’s Reading | crimepieces

  8. Pingback: The 2014 Petrona Award for the Best of Scandinavian Crime Fiction – Shortlist | crimepieces

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