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by Yrsa Sigurdadottir and Victoria Cribb, trans.
Minotaur, February 2020
368 pages
ISBN: 125013630X

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Yrsa Sigurdardottir's three Children's House Thrillers all deal with murders involving children or teens. Freyja is a child psychologist who deals with traumatized youth but is frequently called in to the Reykjavik Police to assist Detective Huldar who is once again dealing with the murder of a youth, this time sixteen-year-old Stella. The police find out about the crime on Snapchat when violent images of Stella's attack appear on this popular social media site in Iceland. When the body is found, the number 2 appears on a paper beneath the body.

When a second attack, of a young teen named Egill, appears on Snapchat, this time with number 3 near the body, Huldar and Freyja know they have serious trouble on their hands. Why have these popular teens been brutally beaten to death and where is number 1, if there is a number 1?

Huldar and Freyja are hampered in their search because they are personas non grata in the department. Sexual encounters between Huldar and his boss, Erla, and Huldar and Freyja have frayed their work relationships. And everyone in the force knows about these dalliances. As the investigation gets closer to its conclusion, tempers flash and impede the work.

To make matters worse, as the friends of the victims are interviewed, it becomes clear that Stella and Egill are the leaders of cliques of bullies who torture their victims at school and on social media. Freyja is triggered by this case, thrown back to her own youth as a bullied child. But she had chosen her career as a child psychologist to help others like herself and the Reykjavik police expect her to work with Huldar on this case.

It starts to look like the fathers of bullied children might be the killers. But what about the nurse at the hospital where one of the suspected killers is dying? Or the young woman who maimed herself in an attempted suicide twenty years earlier?

This tightly wound tale of bullies, the bullied and the fallout from bullying circles closer and closer to its conclusion. Once the killers have been identified, there remains a dark shadow around someone who will have to pay the most terrible price, watching a beloved child become the victim of the bullies at the child's school.

In the great tradition of Nordic noir, Queen of Icelandic crime fiction Yrsa Sigurdardottir's THE ABSOLUTION is well crafted as it digs into the crimes against children.. The fourth book of the Children's House series is already in the pipe. Will the bullying go on, or will Sigurdardottir's series take another direction? Will Freyja and Huldar get back together? Will they make peace with their boss, Erla? I can't wait to find out.

Susan Hoover is a playwright, independent producer and retired college English teacher. She lives in Nova Scotia.

Reviewed by Susan Hoover, February 2020

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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