I Remember You by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
|I Remember You by Yrsa Sigurdardottir|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: It might be Nordic, but this is not just another thriller – this is one of the most spooky reads you could wish for.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: October 2012|
|Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton|
Too often, people – such as myself – refer to a book as being a rollercoaster read, mostly down to a simply topsy-turvy plot. But this is the true embodiment of a white-knuckle ride. It has the anxiety of the queue as we watch three people – a couple and another young woman – get ferried across the fjord to one of western Iceland's most remote outposts, with the aim being to renovate an old building as a guesthouse. There's the crunch of the roll-cage protection bars locking us in as we find that something very malevolent is hiding in the tiny settlement. And just as the car starts we might be seeking in vain the relieved thumbs-up from those leaving the ride, telling us all is well and all survived.
To add to the roller-coaster attitude is the structure of this book, for every second chapter is about a damaged psychiatrist with links to the police force, who has a diverse round of tasks and patients. Here is an elderly woman who hardly speaks, suddenly wishing to divulge secrets. Here is an unusual suicide, and here a Kindergarten vandalised almost to the point of desecration. Both sides to the novel are so brilliantly chilling, so darkly unnerving, that you never get tired of the slow pull up the slope and the immediate switch of gear at the top of the breathless drop.
This might look like a Scandi-crime hit on the shelves, but it is something so much darker still. Even Jo Nesbo seems to have nothing to compare with the goosebumps generated here. Without violent crimes or gore of any particular kind, Sigurdardottir still controls her macabre mood so successfully. With something like an unshowy cliffhanger nearly every twenty pages, there is little that relents, and to kill the metaphor off, you really are forced along for the ride.
The psychiatrist side of things has a sort of over-knowledgeable narrator, imparting too much inside information related to the unusual events he faces, and showing too much research. But little are the quibbles available – there is only one time throughout the book where you can really say 'I told you so!', and too many where you just get the willies and steel yourself to continuing. It really comes across as a most intelligent horror, more so than a thriller, even if there are criminal cases to be solved of a most unusual kind.
The satisfactory feelings this results in include the realisation that this could never be done justice as a film. It contains too many jumpy creaks, too many sudden shocks, too many stunning little moments to grip. It has to stay a novel, and it has to be read as such. Go to Iceland and you'll be told of the mythical attitude the locals have, where trolls, spirits and crimes are forever embodied in the soil they once occupied. By abandoning us totally in the darkening wilderness of western Iceland – and creeping us out perfectly – this novel is the next best thing.
We preferred this title much more than her previous. It's an utterly different book, but the sense of dread in near-Arctic landscape here is only matched by We Die Alone by David Howarth. You might appreciate The Ice Lands by Steinar Bragi and Lorenza Garcia (translator) but we had our reservation s.
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