Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Someone to Watch Over Me by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
3.5 out of 5 stars -- Set in Iceland, and the 5th in a series, this is the first one I read, completely out of order unfortunately. The series features a lawyer named Thóra Gudmundsdóttir who, aided by her live-in partner Matthew, is hired to find out who started a fire at a care facility for severely disabled young adults. The blaze resulted in the deaths of 5 people (4 patients and one security guard) and the convicted perpetrator, a young man with Down Syndrome who also lived there, was remanded to a Psychiatric Care Unit in lieu of prison. The person who is paying Thóra to investigate to see if Jakob is truly guilty, however, is another inmate at the PCU. What is his interest in this case and what secrets does he dangle to Thóra to get her involved in proving Jakob's innocence and finding the true arsonist/murderer?
In addition, there is a paranormal aspect in what initially seems to be an unrelated situation -- a haunting of a house near where a young woman was killed in a hit and run. How are these two cases connected -- or are they? And, in another twist, it seems that female residents who had lived in the care facility may have been raped -- more horrors wrapped up in another mystery.
This was a very complicated story involving many different people whose actions and motivations were hard to keep straight. I'd recommend reading it in as short of time as possible so you don't forget key points and characters as there is lot going on. The author withholds Thóra's "ah ha" moments at times, and the narrative moves slowly with lots of detail. The plight of the citizens of Iceland and the economic state of the nation is explored and the reader is confounded by the stigma of disability and how poorly they are cared for in Iceland.
Since I am not familiar with Thóra and her backstory, I really wanted to know more about her personal life. The main thing I noticed, however, was that she wasn't the typical damaged personality so common in crime/thriller fiction these days, but seemed a normal, mentally healthy woman, divorced with two children and a grandchild. I'd like to know more about her and I think it would have been better had I started with the first in the series and read to this point.
I am interested enough in Thóra that I will likely go seek out the previous books in this series. The setting and mood was very noir and interesting and I enjoyed it.
Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for the e-book ARC to review.
NOTE: in this translation, the author uses Down's Syndrome to describe Jakob's disability instead of the more usual accepted label of Down Syndrome.