As in The Silence of the Sea (2016), Iceland’s Queen of Crime juggles two sets of crimes in two time frames to produce a slow-burning, bone-chilling tale. Following the fatal heart attack of his co-worker Róberta Gunnarsdóttir, Ódinn Hafsteinsson, trained as a dispassionate engineer, is asked to take over her investigative report on the half-century history of the Krókur care home for troubled young men. Ódinn, already presented as dying along with his 11-year-old daughter, Rún, in the prologue, soon follows Róberta in zeroing in on the deaths of Einar Allen and Thorbjörn Jónasson, two Krókur boys who were found in a car dead of carbon monoxide poisoning some 40 years ago. As Ódinn, who’s been on edge ever since the sudden death of his ex-wife, Lára Karlsdóttir, left him the sole guardian of Rún, begins to piece together different accounts of the case, the author takes a shortcut ahead of him, going directly back to the January day in 1974 when Einar first arrives at Krókur. Cleaning woman Aldís Agnarsdóttir instantly suspects that he’s much too old to have been placed there—in fact, he turns out to be 18, legally an adult—but that sharp perception doesn’t stop her from falling under his sway, since they’re both in different ways victims of Veigar and Lilja, the home’s tyrannical owners and mismanagers. As the two stories proceed in alternating chapters whose movement is as inexorable as that of the Titanic and the iceberg, the past will turn out to resonate in Ódinn’s investigation in ways that are as unexpected as they are shattering, with shocking new complications still foretold in the story’s final paragraphs.
“Someone always gets punished when a crime is committed,” one character observes bitterly, “but not always the guilty party.”Rest assured that the guilty and the innocent alike will share every punishment Sigurdardóttir can dish out.