by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir
I Remember You: A Ghost Story is modern ghost story that opens with a series of ordinary and seemingly unrelated events:
- Three friends — Katrín, her husband Gardar and their friend Lif — are dropped off at Hesteyrí, a long-abandoned village to begin renovating an old house into a summer guest house. They plan to stay a week in the village, 70 minutes by boat from Isafjördur in northwestern Iceland.
- Freyr, a psychiatrist grieving his young son Benni who went missing three years before while playing, is asked to profile vandals who damaged a local school.
- The Isafjördur police are called away from the school vandalism when 69-year-old Halla hangs herself in a church she didn’t go to and wasn’t a member of. The church originally was located in Hesteyrí.
- The medical examiner finds that Halla’s spine and shoulder blades are covered with small, precise cuts forming a cross over her spine and shoulder blades. He recalls another corpse with similar scars.
Then echoes between past and present start appearing. Pressed by Freyr, the medical examiner finds autopsy reports on five other people with similar scars — all born in the 1940s, all classmates of Halla’s, and all victims of violent, accidental deaths within five years.
Then Freyr learns that a student in that class, Bernódus, had like Benni, vanished without a trace 30 years earlier.
Sigurdardóttir does a masterful job of having circumstances echo across different time periods like reflections in parallel mirrors. The suspense is almost unbearable as seemingly unrelated events and people click into relationship.
No misdeed goes unpunished in this book. By the last page, it’s clear that every new victim has the power to reach through the fabric of life an exact justice in a terrifying way.
The isolated, atmospheric setting of the village Hesteyrí is real. Its residents decided to leave the village collectively in the late 1940s as the fishing industries that supported them declined. The village was a ghost town by 1952. The town is a gateway to a nature preserve, Hornstrandir, and a destination for tourists and hikers. It has a notable cemetery — just like the one that figures in the book — and the former doctor’s house is used today as a place for tourists to stop for refreshments.
About the Author
Sigurdardóttir, like many of her characters, leads a double life: she is a director for one of Iceland’s largest engineering firms.
Sigurdardóttir has written a series featuring Thóra Gudmundsdóttir, as well as several stand-alone novels like I Remember You.
The Thóra Gudmundsdóttir series should be read in this order. The mysteries themselves are independent but Thóra’s situation with two kids, one a son who gets his girlfriend pregnant and her German lover evolve over the course of the series.
- Last Rituals (2009). Icelandic lawyer Thóra Gudmundsdóttir is brought in by the family of a murdered German student who doesn’t believe the police have arrested the right man. The student was found with his eyes cut out and symbols carved into his chest. As Thóra and her associate Matthew Reich investigate, they discover the student was obsessed with Iceland’s history of torture, execution and witch hunts.
- My Soul to Take: A Novel of Iceland (2009). A client whom Thóra had assisted with a land deal in western Iceland turns to her for assistance: his plans to develop a spa on the land he purchased are being undermined by rumors that one of the farm houses on the land is haunted. When the sexually abused body of Birna Halldórsdóttir, the architect who was woking on a new building for the spa, is found on the beach, the client, Jónas Júlíusson, becomes a prime suspect.
- Ashes to Dust: A Thriller (2010). When a developer decides to excavate an Icelandic village buried by a 1973 volcanic eruption, he runs into legal barriers — and the discovery of three fresh bodies and an extra head. Markus, a teenager when the volcano erupted, enlists Thóra to stop the development of the site into a tourist attraction. But the discovery of the bodies in Markus’ childhood home throws him under suspicion.
- The Day is Dark (2011). Thóra is brought in to investigate when all contact is lost with two Icelanders working in an isolated, harsh area on the coast of Greenland. Local townspeople believe the area is cursed. Thóra learns that these aren’t the first people to go missing, and then finds herself stranded in the hostile wilderness.