Review: Yrsa Sigurdardottir – The Silence of the Sea

I read so much crime fiction that I sometimes think it has lost the power to shock me. I know this hasn’t spilled into real life as I find isbn9781444734461-detailsome of the crimes that I read in newspapers horrific. However, when it comes to fiction, very little distresses me these days. For a book to stand out it either has to be innovative, for example Pierre LeMaitre’s Irene, or well written such as K T Medina’s White Crocodile. However, Silence of the Sea, the latest book by the queen of Icelandic crime fiction, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, truly gave me the chills and I was rightly dreading the ending. It’s, without doubt, her best book yet.

Ægir travels to Portugal to deal with the paperwork to repossess a yacht  from a millionaire hit by the financial crisis. He takes his wife and twin daughters along for a holiday but when an accident incapacitates one of the crew, Aegir agrees to help sail the yacht back to Iceland. However, the crew resent the family’s presence and an air of malevolence hangs over the ship. A portrait of the wealthy wife of the former owner fascinates the twins and they claim to have seen the woman wondering the ship. When a body is found in a freezer, it unleashes a chain of events that imperil the family. Weeks later, the abandoned yacht arrives in Iceland with no trace of the occupants. Lawyer Thora Gudmundsdottir is employed by the parents of the missing father to discover what became of the family.

Silence of the Sea brings together two strands of this author’s writing. It’s the latest book in the series featuring lawyer Thora but also has echoes of I Remember You, Yrsa’s supernatural thriller. For much of the book, it’s not clear whether there are paranormal forces at work but the eeire emptiness of the vast ocean adds to the sense of impending doom.

The book is part locked room mystery and, hopefully without giving too much of the plot away, reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Both narratives work equally well: that of the fate of the ship’s passengers and Thora’s subsequent investigation. I found the book to be both compelling and shocking and was, ultimately, glad to reach the end.

Thanks to Hodder for my review copy. The translation is by Victoria Cribb.

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21 thoughts on “Review: Yrsa Sigurdardottir – The Silence of the Sea

  1. Sarah – Oh, this does sound both chilling and well-written. And it’s interesting to see how those two threads of the author’s writing are brought together here. It sounds as though there’s a great sense of atmosphere – even claustrophobia – in the novel too. Thanks, as ever for an excellent review.

  2. This sounds great – I thought the only thng wrong with I Remember You was that it was a ghost story rather than a mystery. (Prejudiced, me?) She does that ratcheting eeriness very well.

  3. Pretty sure I’ve got this – somewhere! (Still not totally organised since my house move!) Must search for it as it sounds utterly intriguing. Thanks Sarah, know I can always trust your recommendations. You still keen on Stirling? My friend Dee, she’s great company, v bright and witty, is also really interested. Btw, can’t wait til YOUR book comes out.

    • I’m definitely going to Bloody Scotland and I’ve sent you a DM on Twitter. At least I hope it’s you. It would be great to see you and your friend Dee there.

  4. Thank you so much for letting us know about the Queen of Icelandic crime fiction! Mind you, I think most crime fiction fans know about Arnaldur Indriðason’s works, but not Sigudardottir.

    I love what you say about being shocked and I totally identify with that feeling even though I am a scaredy cat (don’t even mention a tricicle on a long corridor to me). But if this book changes that, I’m game! And now I’m off to check Irene and see if the beautiful, challenging and lovely connotations the name has for me have also ended up making a great book.

  5. Sarah,
    I’m noting this one and placing lots of stars next to it. I’ve read Yrsa, yes, but I am very much behind reading her books. I think I read one, or maybe two. How much does this matter, do you think?
    Judith

  6. Pingback: Review: The Silence Of The Sea by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir | The Game's Afoot

  7. Did not like it. Too many little distractions about what children are playing with, that have nothing to do with advancing the plot. Confirms my idea that children, food and animals are very, very difficult to write about in an interesting way. Otherwise a good story.

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