My Soul to Take, by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

If you want to get a job done, ask a busy woman. And Reykjavik lawyer Thóra Gudmundsdóttir is a very busy woman. Her 16-year-old son is about to become a father, her secretary My Soul to Take, by Yrsa Sigurdardottir has been working to rule for as long as anyone can remember, and she is stuck with an annoying client committed to quibbling about the height of letterboxes. She needs to get away.

Respite comes in the shape of Jónas Júlíusson, radio mogul turned hotelier. Jónas is developing an old farm on the remote Snaefellsnes peninsula into a new-age spa resort. His vision is to offer a range of services to the hotel residents - including sex therapy, aura reading and massages - in a tranquil, uplifting environment. One thing stands in the way of this ambition. The land surrounding the hotel appears to be haunted, and Jónas wants to sue its former owners. The down-to-earth Thóra doesn't believe in ghosts, but Jónas persuades her to take his case by offering a free stay at the hotel. When a murder is committed and Jónas comes under suspicion, Thóra must investigate the misdeeds of the past in order to solve the crimes of the present.

My Soul to Take is the second of Yrsa Sigurdardottir's books for adults to be translated into English. I for one am very glad that the work of this civil engineer has reached the English-speaking public. She is a compelling storyteller. Her special talent as a writer of crime fiction is to engage the reader at the level of the novel's characters. Reading this book (and the same goes for Last Rituals, the first novel in this series), I found myself in complete empathy with Thóra, which meant that I remained in delicious suspense until the story's climax. On the way, the narrative was by turns witty, shocking and exhilarating. It was never predictable. I especially enjoyed the way the various plot lines came together into a stylish and poignant ending. And as an armchair tourist I loved the distinctive flavour of modern Iceland combined with a pinch or two of the country's history.

I'm not at all surprised to hear that Yrsa Sigurdardottir has written a number of books for children. Reading My Soul to Take has returned me to a child-like state where, exhausted yet greedy, I beg for the storytelling to continue. Come on, Yrsa, tell us another one!