Saturday, February 23, 2013

My Soul To Take

My Soul To Take 
Author: Yrsa Sigurdardóttir
William Morrow, 2009
352 pages

My Soul To Take is the second book in an enthralling series featuring Reykjavik-based attorney Thora Guðmundsdóttir. I accidentally read this series out of order, starting with the fourth book The Day is Dark -- but I read the first, Last Rituals, earlier this year.

This time around, Thora's at a New Age spa on the west coast of Iceland -- not of her own volition, but at the request of a Jonas, the spa's owner. Jonas wants to sue the former owners of the property for their failure to disclose that the property includes . . . a ghost. And the ghost is having a negative impact on the business.

Just as Thora's getting settled (and having a nice massage in the spa), the body of a dead woman is found on the shore. Turns out the woman is the architect Jonas hired to design a second building -- and she wasn't exactly popular with the staff or in the community. When police find evidence that implicates Jonas as a murder suspect, Thora shifts to investigator mode, enlisting Matthew (her German 'boyfriend') to help out. There's no lack of other suspects, including an old politician with a secret past; a jealous wife; and a local farmer.

But wait. Soon there's another murder, and suddenly nothing is quite as it seems. Is this place really haunted? Or cursed, perhaps? Thora must look back to the past to find out what's going on the present . . . to hopefully prevent any more murders in the future.

This series is one of my current favorites. Yrsa's descriptions of the otherworldly landscape, combined with her amazing ability to weave history and culture into a crime thriller, have put Iceland at the top of my 'Places I Must Visit' list. And I hope to do just that very soon! :)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

In The Blood

In The Blood
Author: Steve Robinson
Amazon Digital Services, 2012
312 pages

When I was in third grade, my teacher had everyone write a one-page report on a topic of her choice. My topic was my mom, and in doing the research for that major publication I became aware of my French heritage. I've been hooked on genealogy ever since. Add that to my appreciation of a good mystery and you'll understand my excitement at discovering a wonderful new-to-me series that begins with In The Blood: A Genealogical Crime Mystery #1.

Our story begins when American genealogist Jefferson Theodore "JT" Tayte reluctantly sets off on a mission to Cornwall in southwest England to fill in some gaps in the family history of a wealthy Boston client. 'Reluctantly' because, you see, JT hates to fly. He's a rather quirky character (in a good way, of course) who drives a classic red Thunderbird, listens to show tunes, and eats too many Mr. Goodbars. An expert genealogist, his own heritage is a mystery: he's an adoptee who has so far been unable to determine his own family tree. The possibilities for growth in this character are practically limitless.

JT's in Cornwall to research the Fairborne family, loyalists who returned to their native England after the American Revolution. Thing is, James Fairborne's wife Eleanor and their children have been 'lost' to history. Records show that James married a woman named Susan and had children with her. But what happened to his first family? As he pokes around and gets to know some of the locals, it soon becomes clear that someone out there wants to keep JT from learning the real story, and they'll stop at nothing - even murder.

An old estate. An arrogant, wealthy politician. A lonely widow. Lots of other interesting characters. The hauntingly romantic Cornwall setting. An earworm of Chris de Burgh's "Don't Pay the Ferryman." OK, that last part was my own contribution -- but you'll understand when you read In The Blood. It all adds up to a satisfying, fast-paced escape from reality. In other words, my kind of read. Oh, and now I want to go to Cornwall. :)

Kudos to English author Steve Robinson for creating this wonderful character and series. I can't wait to read the other two available books (To The Grave and The Last Queen of England) and look forward to many, many more of these.