Author: Ragnar Jónasson
Published by: Minotaur Books on May 4, 2021
Format: ARC, Paperback
Source: Minotaur Books
Book Rating: 7.5/10
Teacher Wanted At the Edge of the World
Una wants nothing more than to teach, but she has been unable to secure steady employment in Reykjavík. Her savings are depleted, her love life is nonexistent, and she cannot face another winter staring at the four walls of her shabby apartment. Celebrating Christmas and ringing in 1986 in the remote fishing hamlet of Skálar seems like a small price to pay for a chance to earn some teaching credentials and get her life back on track.
But Skálar isn’t just one of Iceland’s most isolated villages, it is home to less than a dozen people. Una’s only students are two girls aged seven and nine. Teaching them only occupies so many hours in a day and the few adults she interacts with are civil but distant. She only seems to connect with Thór, a man she shares an attraction with but who is determined to keep her at arm’s length.
As darkness descends throughout the bleak winter, Una finds herself more often than not in her rented attic space – the site of a local legendary haunting – drinking her loneliness away. She is plagued by nightmares of a little girl in a white dress singing a lullaby. And when a sudden tragedy echoes an event long-buried in Skálar’s past, the villagers become even more guarded, leaving a suspicious Una seeking to uncover a shocking truth that’s been kept secret for generations.
Dark, intense, and creepy!
The Girl Who Died is a menacing, haunted thriller that sweeps you away to the secluded hamlet of Skálar and into the life of Una, a young teacher who after recently relocating from Reykjavík, struggles to feel comfortable, safe, and able to integrate herself into this community of ten residents that seem to be extremely insular and have something they’re determined to protect and hide at all costs.
The prose is eerie and tight. The characters are multilayered, aloof, and secretive, with the setting being a character itself with its desolation, claustrophobic environment, and isolation. And the plot is a simmering, ominous tale of familial drama, tension, desperation, violence, and death, all interwoven with a sliver of the supernatural.
Overall, The Girl Who Died is a taut, unsettling, atmospheric mystery by Jónasson that has all the qualities you typically look for in a Nordic Noir tale, and even though I thought it could have had a slighter quicker pace, it was nevertheless still an entertaining read from start to finish.
This book is available now.
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Thank you to St. Martin’s Press – Minotaur Books for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.