Lawyer Thóra Gudmundsdóttir continues her journey through life in a mixed bag of good, mediocre and bad.
Or better, a mystery ship and an amount of body bags. All hands on a repossessed luxury yacht on its way from Lisbon to Iceland are mysteriously lost. The boat hits Reykjavik harbor with deadly precision, but empty - until bodies start to show up, in reality or just as hearsay.
One pair of (grand)parents - of the couple and their two daughters that are all four missing - ask Thóra to handle the aspects of a multi-million life insurance of the (repo) man and his wife as to continue providing care for the youngest sibling, a two year old daughter who wasn't on the trip and is now presumed orphaned. To do so, Thóra must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that all are dead.
The story alternates between the ship and the research of Thóra after the fact. This works well most of the time, but not always. As a lot of chapters playing on the boat end with a cliffhanger it is necessary that the chapters in between with Thóra, her research, her family troubles and her unbelievable secretary from hell (providing a final clue) are able to keep up the sawtooth-curve for the reader to stay interested in the mystery. In a few cases we have alternating chapters with first a cliffhanger, followed by a dull description of Thóra's research. As said this is not beneficiary for the story, making the reader losing focus.
The story includes a high society bimbo who is depicted rather stereotypical - not good - a crew and their companions with surprises - good - and family developments in Iceland - basically an uninteresting footnote.
Many other characters, including the police detectives, are flat characters as well. I get the impression that Yrsa Sigurdardóttir is not that enchanted by the quality of the Icelandic force, but then, I could be mistaken. Also Thóra's friend, Matthew, ex-München CID and (ex- and again) safety officer with the bank, is very apathetic and uninterested in this (as soon as a body turns up) criminal case. What's the matter, bro? It seems Yrsa Sigurdardóttir is running out of ideas what to do with him.
As the description of the book makes clear from the beginning, the story contains little children and things not going well for them. I don't think that this is a problem, but the way in which Yrsa Sigurdardóttir uses this story element is not convincing. It looks like they have been added for the drama. The dramatic and in my opinion unbelievable climax in the last chapter only reinforces this suspicion of mine. There is simply no need for it and it even distracts from the intricacies of the mystery at hand.
Because the mystery, well, I like it. Very much. It keeps you guessing to the end. It's almost a pity when everything is finally being revealed. Yrsa Sigurdardóttir is keen on using Gothic and supernatural elements and this book is no exception. The creepiness seeps through the story con gusto and is solved in an immensely clever way - reason why I read these books. Like Agatha Christie's Ten Little Niggers you know what's coming, but don't know why (and by whom). This should be the main focus of a good mystery. And in the end, it's nothing supernatural at all. Very cool tied together.
So, again, I found the tear jerking story of the children mostly distracting. On the other hand: after closing the book (or better, switching off the Kindle) you probably leave the book behind with the tragic story of the children instead of with the clever solution to the problem where everyone has gone and what the (not inconsiderable) body count is. (Hint: it's not ten).
And maybe that's what Yrsa Sigurdardóttir wanted the reader to realize. To ponder the consequences of a devastated family due to -in the end- very mundane human greed.