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by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir
Translated from the Icelandic by Bernard Scudder and Anna Yates
Reviewed by Kate Morgan

In the starkly beautiful countryside of Iceland's west coast, a woman's body is found, badly beaten and with common sewing pins stuck in the bottom of her feet. Not far away, lawyer Thóra Gudmundsdóttir is consulting with her client, the owner of a New Age health spa in a renovated old farmhouse, over an unlikely lawsuit he wishes to bring against the original sellers for failure to disclose that the property is haunted. When the dead woman turns out to be the spa's architect, Thóra's client quickly becomes a suspect and Thóra launches herself into the investigation in an effort to clear her client from suspicion.

Thóra is joined unexpectedly by her German lover Matthew, formerly an investigator with the German CID but now in the private commercial sector, whom she met and came to know during an earlier case (related in the first book of the series, Last Rituals). Once again, the two act as a team as they sift through what evidence they can find. Despite widespread tales of apparitions of crying children in the night fog, they dismiss outright the idea that the property is haunted but are forced to rethink this position in light of events that cannot be rationally explained. When a second body is discovered—also with pins in its feet—Thóra is determined to uncover the explanations for both the murders and the alleged hauntings.

In Thóra Gudmundsdóttir, the author has created a likable, intelligent young woman who lives a complicated life. Unlike many of her male literary counterparts, she is no morose, solitary figure nursing old wounds and working her case out over a strong drink (or three!). She is just plain too busy for that. Not only is Thóra a full-time lawyer; she's also a divorced mother of a teenaged boy and a six-year old girl and must deal with all that entails. She may be rifling through old boxes of potential evidence in a dusty basement or interviewing the owner of a nearby farmhouse, but she still has to make it to court to defend her client and find a way to cope with the abrupt flight of her son and daughter from their father's house. As a further complication, there's her unexpected relationship with Matthew, a foreigner who speaks little Icelandic.

The novel's mystery is delightfully complex. Because they lack access to much of the information held by the police, Thóra and Matthew must scrounge for clues where they can. In fact, this situation is one of the novel's intriguing aspects: Thóra's investigation runs parallel to what, if we were following a police detective, would be the police procedural. That Thóra's personal life is as complicated as the mystery she seeks to solve only enhances the story. My Soul to Take is a smoothly told tale, laced liberally with bits and pieces of Icelandic culture and history, peppered nicely with suspense, and filled with all the cerebral bits that readers of excellent police procedurals and crime novels love. I look forward to more novels from this new entrant into the world of crime fiction.