A luxury yacht crashes into Rekyavik Harbour one night without a soul on board and no immediate signs of foul play; the three-man crew and family of four who were travelling home from Portugal are just…gone. Lawyer Thóra Gudmundsdóttir is hired in desperation by an elderly couple who are looking after their toddler granddaughter. Their son, his wife and twin granddaughters were the family on board the boat and the grandparents need help accessing the family finances and retaining custody of – or at least access to – their remaining granddaughter. Thóra, like everyone else in the town, can’t help but get sucked into the mystery of what on earth could have happened to everyone. Interspersed with this unfolding storyline are chapters that take place on board the boat, before things went horribly awry.
If you head into this book without any expectation of a Larsson-esque Girl Who… book (i.e. ignore the moronic red splash on the cover) chances are you will not be disappointed by this creepy tale of things that go bump
in the night at sea. Sigurdardottir does a great job of building the suspense from both ends and, as her books often do, incorporates just enough other-worldliness to ramp up the chill factor without making the storyline seem preposterous to those of us with a low tolerance for ‘woo woo’ elements. As a kind of floating locked-room mystery the plotting here is first rate and guaranteed to keep even seasoned genre fans guessing until the end.
As far as character development goes the novel is a little more prosaic. Thóra is her usual determined self, with a smattering of personal tribulations to deal with and needing to wrangle her office’s ever-useless receptionist, but series stalwarts won’t learn anything new about the heroine. Probably the most well-developed character is Ægir, the father who has taken his family aboard the ill-fated yacht on behalf of his company which is re-possessing it from its now bankrupt celebrity owners. It is from his point of view that half the narrative is revealed and his depiction as an increasingly confused and frightened father who wishes he could go back in time is a good one.
For my tastes this author’s previous novel was slightly superior to this one as I enjoyed the way it explored social themes more interestingly. Here I think that opportunity was largely missed as the potential subjects – such as the modern world’s obsession with celebrity and the fallout from the global financial crisis – were largely ignored. However it’s a top notch plot-driven novel and scores high marks for its chill factor.
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Translator Victoria Cribb
Publisher Hodder & Stoughton 
Length 420 pages
Book Series #6 in the Thóra Gudmundsdóttir series
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