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by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir, and Philip Roughton, trans.
Minotaur Books, March 2014
370 pages
ISBN: 1250045622

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

I REMEMBER YOU, Yrsa Sigurdardóttir's fifth novel, immerses readers in a series of hauntings in the depths of winter in Iceland. The book's chapters alternate between two scenes whose connections become clear only at the end of the novel; readers will recognize the thoroughly modern times and tempi, but also the timelessness of cold, of ice, of the possibility of freezing to death, of the ocean's swallowing one without remorse.

In the town of Ísaforþur, Freyr, a psychologist, and Dagný, a police officer, try to piece together who might have defaced the town's elementary school. Freyr is particularly touched by the crime in the school, since he lost his son, a school-aged boy. It is Freyr's dogged digging through the facts, along with Dagný's access to the case files of similar defacings in the past, that first shed light on the strange case. Freyr and Dagný focus on a picture of school friends who, one by one, have matured to adulthood and been claimed by strange, untimely deaths. The series of deaths, it seems, started three years ago, near the date of the disappearance of Freyr's son.

Meanwhile, in Hesteyri, an abandoned town on the fjord, a group of friends has hit upon a way to make money by renovating one of the homes and renting it to summer visitors. Líf, whose husband Eínar has recently died, has brought her small dog. Einar's best friend Garþar and his wife Katrín complete the group. The boatman who brings the little group to the abandoned town will not return for them for two weeks. However, the friends are young and eager to begin work on the house. All goes well until they begin finding puddles of water, footprints, sea shells, and crosses taken from the old cemetery inside the house they are renovating. Winter nights prove unforgiving, demanding firewood for survival, and the friends' cell telephones have run out of charge, so they cannot contact the outer world.

I REMEMBER YOU has a bit of a sticky plot. The sightings of ghosts involve the usual slamming doors and creaking floorboards. In addition, Sigurdardóttir has probably chosen for her protagonists ordinary people so that the extraordinary events surrounding them will provide a contrast to their ordinary lives. The only problem with that plan is, their lives are ordinary, their minds move in ordinary ways, their conversation is ordinary. It takes a deft hand to keep that up for 300 or 400 pages. The final message is an old one about caring genuinely for one another, but sometimes getting to the end makes the Icelandic winter seem long indeed.

§ Cathy Downs, Professor of English at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, is a fan of the well-turned whodunit.

Reviewed by Cathy Downs, February 2014

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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