Archive for June 14, 2015

A luxury yacht arrives in Reykjavik harbour with nobody on board. What has happened to the crew, and to the family who were on board when it left Lisbon?

TPA2015SThora Gudmundsdottir is hired by the young father’s parents to investigate, and is soon drawn deeper into the mystery. What should she make of the rumours saying that the vessel was cursed, especially given that when she boards the yacht she thinks she sees one of the missing twins? Where is Karitas, the glamorous young wife of the yacht’s former owner? And whose is the body that has washed up further along the shore? [taken from the Amazon introduction]

Kathy commented on the 20 May:

I’d like to read an explanation of why this book [The Silence of the Sea by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir] was chosen. I say this as a fan of Yrsa’s series.
But you gave a compelling argument for The Hummingbird and another blogger preferred Hunting Dogs. So I’d like to see why this book was chosen, in particular, i.e. atmosphere, plot, characters, etc.

I finished reading The Silence of the Sea yesterday, and I would like to ask the judges that same question.

 

The story is told in two timeframes with Thora’s investigation trying to prove that the family on the yacht are dead so that the parents and surviving daughter can claim the very large life insurance policies, interspersed with lengthy flashbacks to the voyage from Lisbon to Icelandic waters. It is perhaps a measure of the success of the story that the author drew me into her world so much that I was shocked, and very upset by the ending. I did not enjoy reading the book, but then I don’t think it was a story the reader was supposed to enjoy.

As I read I had hoped that we were not heading for one of those dark Nordic conclusions that leaves me emotionally drained, and searching for a Reginald Hill, or even a Massimo Carlotto for light relief. 

The ending perhaps even crossed the line from horror to horrid. Maybe that says more about my fragile emotional state than it does about the book. Also I cannot believe that any police force in the world would treat a yacht arriving in port, without the seven people meant to be on board, in such a lax manner. Perhaps in the numerous lengthy flashbacks to life on the voyage I found the actions of Aegir, the father, unbelievably stupid. Perhaps I am just an old curmudgeon, who can’t cope with miserable endings. 

In the books I read I am looking for the following features; a good plot, teasing subplots, believable interesting characters, an easy to read style, originality, a few red herrings, new locations, telling social commentary, even a little humour, and some empathy with the reader.

In the case of the Petrona Award winner I feel it should also be a book that the late Maxine Clarke would have enjoyed, a difficult judgement to make unless you knew her very well.

I am going to quote one of the judges, in her own review of the book.

“I found the book to be both compelling and shocking and was, ultimately, glad to reach the end.”

I totally agree. Frankly, even if you loved the rest of the book the ending was so shocking, that it would have disqualified it in my mind from receiving the award. 

There were at least three much more readable books suitable for the general reader on the shortlist than The Silence of the Sea, and my choice would have been The Hummingbird by Kati Hiekkapelto.