A multilayered tale that builds slowly—the use of smells is especially effective—but drives to a shattering climax that...



Sigurdardóttir’s work (The Day Is Dark, 2013, etc.) has always drawn on both kinds of mysteries—detective stories in which everything is explained rationally and supernatural thrillers in which it isn’t—but this tale of a series of disappearances grounded in long-simmering revenge mixes the two more inextricably than ever before.

Freyr, a consulting psychiatrist who’s been called to the scene of a schoolroom that’s been vandalized, finds nothing unusual about the way it’s been trashed and defaced by the word “dirty,” until he learns that the same thing happened to the same room 60 years ago. This apparent coincidence is rendered even more uncanny when Halla, a pensioner who was traumatized as a schoolchild by the earlier incident, hangs herself from a church ceiling—and when Freyr and his lover, Dagný, a police detective, learn of the high mortality rate among Halla’s classmates, none of whom died from natural causes. Meanwhile, in remote Hesteyri, an unemployed Reykjavík MBA, his schoolteacher wife and their widowed friend, who plan to rehab a disused building as a guesthouse, have a series of increasingly creepy run-ins with what seems to be a young boy’s ghost. Crosscutting between the two stories, Sigurdardóttir counterpoints the progress of the investigation into the schoolroom vandalism and its implications with the deterioration of the relations among the three rehabbers, whose encounters with the ghost become more dangerous as they learn more and more unwelcome news about each other. By the time one of them vanishes, Freyr’s realization that the vandalism case, which you’d think would be altogether safer, is linked to his own diabetic son’s more recent disappearance turns his investigation into an anguished search for the truth of his own life.

A multilayered tale that builds slowly—the use of smells is especially effective—but drives to a shattering climax that honors the traditions of both detective fiction and ghost stories.

Pub Date: March 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-250-04562-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.


Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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