Q&A: Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Author of THE RECKONING
No one writes crime fiction quite like Yrsa Sigurdardottir. Dark and gritty, layered and complex, Yrsa’s exceptional crime novels are must-reads for any fan of the Nordic Noir genre - or any reader who just wants a great procedural to sink their teeth into. In 2018, Yrsa launched her new series (the Children’s House series) in the U.S. with The Legacy - and this week, she’s back with book two, THE RECKONING - and it’s every bit as good as its predecessor. The Children’s House series is quickly becoming one of my personal favorites; these books are unflinching in their examination of the lasting legacy of childhood trauma, exploring difficult themes with sensitivity and thoughtfulness. And beyond that, they’re just fantastic crime reading, filled with all the atmosphere and intrigue of the best mysteries.
I’m thrilled to welcome Yrsa to Crime by the Book today to give us the inside scoop on her newest release, THE RECKONING! In this Q&A, Yrsa touches on everything from her series’ two protagonists to her writing process to how dangerous Iceland really is. Many thanks to Yrsa for answering my questions, and to her publisher for facilitating this Q&A! Read on for details on THE RECKONING (including a snipped from my full review of the book!) and for my Q&A with Yrsa.
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THE RECKONING by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
Vaka sits, regretting her choice of coat, on the cold steps of her new school. Her father appears to have forgotten to pick her up, her mother has forgotten to give her this week’s pocket money, and the school is already locked for the day. Grownups, she decides, are useless.
With no way to call home, she resigns herself to waiting on the steps until her father remembers her. When a girl approaches, Vaka recognizes her immediately from class, and from her unusual appearance: two of her fingers are missing. The girl lives at the back of the school, on the other side of a high fence, and Vaka asks to call her father from the girl's house. That afternoon is the last time anyone sees Vaka.
Detective Huldar and child psychologist Freyja are called in. Soon, they find themselves at the heart of another shocking case.
From the international number one-bestselling author of The Silence of the Sea, winner of the 2015 Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel Yrsa Sigurdardottir returns with the follow-up to The Legacy.
From My Review:
Iceland’s Queen of Crime returns in 2019 with the second installment in her superb Children’s House series: THE RECKONING. Picking up where her 2018 release THE LEGACY left off, Sigurdardottir’s newest crime novel delivers a gritty, layered procedural exploring the longstanding implications of childhood trauma. Readers follow series protagonists Detective Huldar and psychologist Freyja as they find themselves immersed in a bizarre case: a school’s time capsule is opened, and in it is discovered a note predicting the deaths of six people. A child wrote it… it can’t be real, can it? But when a string of inexplicable - and gruesome - events take place, Huldar and Freyja begin to suspect the note isn’t just the product of a child’s imagination after all—and, if they’re right, there’s much more darkness to come. Living up to her work’s well-earned reputation as crime fiction that borders on horror, Sigurdardottir’s THE RECKONING is guaranteed to give you goosebumps. In a story both gruesome and heart-wrenching, Sigurdardottir weaves a masterful mystery that belongs on the bookshelf of every Scandinavian crime fiction reader. | Continue Reading
Author Q&A: Yrsa Sigurdardottir
Crime by the Book: First things first - thank you so much for stopping by CBTB to give us the inside scoop on your newest book, THE RECKONING, Book Two in your fantastic new Children's House series! For readers who may not have dipped into the series yet: are there common themes or topics that run throughout the Children’s House books?
Yrsa Sigurdardottir: Yes and no. The first two installments (the Legacy and the Reckoning) both include children, albeit not in the same way. The first involves a child witness to a murder and the other past atrocities against children. Having said this I would like to note that there are no detailed descriptions of such acts in the second book. It is not necessary in my opinion to jam such horrors down a reader’s throat. Personally, I do not like it when I am reading and find that a subtle, not too detailed reference is enough.
In the third book there are no young children present and this was done on purpose as I did not want their involvement to be a theme. But all of the books in the series include injustice in some manner or form and what can happen if it is allowed to fester instead of being properly dealt with.
CBTB: Because this is book two in a series, can THE RECKONING be read as a stand-alone?
YS: The Reckoning can be read separately. The only thing a reader would miss out on really would be the previous dealings between the two main characters, policeman Huldar and child psychologist Freyja.
CBTB: THE RECKONING centers around two protagonists, Freyja and Huldar. How would you describe these two characters to readers meeting them for the first time?
YS: They are two people from the opposite ends of the spectrum. Freyja is a serious professional that longs to reach far in her chosen profession, child psychology. Huldar is a bit more relaxed and not exactly enthusiastic about the administrative duties that are part of his job. They have one thing in common however, they would like to solve the cases the must face, by hook or by crook. And despite having very different backgrounds and outlooks on life, sometimes opposites attract.
CBTB: You are known for writing some seriously dark stories, and THE RECKONING is no exception. Where do you come up with all the creepy details that fill the pages of your books? Are they based on real crimes, or purely drawn from your imagination?
YS: Usually I draw the stories from my own imagination, but occasionally I do use actual events as a sort of idea-seed for my books. The Reckoning is one such exception. The idea was inspired by actual events in which the Icelandic system failed miserably to help a young girl in dire need of intervention. But it should be kept in mind that the novel is merely inspired by this, it is not a true crime novel. I took what actually occurred and gave it a whopping injection of “what-if-this-had-been-even-worse“. But because the actual events were never far from my mind, I was extremely angry while writing it – which is why it is the way it is. This is possibly the closest I will ever come to being the Punisher.
CBTB: Speaking of all the crimes that take place in your books, how dangerous actually is Iceland?
YS: Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world. This is annoying for me as a crime writer because inspiration cannot be sought from the bungling idiots we call criminals here. It is however extremely comforting for me as a citizen and this far outweighs my exasperation over the tameness of our crime when writing. We have little or no organized crime and few murders. The murders we do have are usually solved as soon as the police arrive at the scene as the murderer will be standing over the body, knife in hand wondering what the hell just happened. But we do have a few murders that fall outside the norm, ranging from a child murderer (a child that murdered) to body mutilation bizarreness. Also, like all countries we have domestic crime that is hard to police because it takes place in the confines of the home. But when it comes to writing a credible crime novel set in a place of peace the trick is to never lose sight of the fact that you are not writing about something that has happened, you are writing about something that you believe could happen – given the worst possible scenario and the wrong people in the wrong place at the wrong time. It can be hard when you read in the morning paper about an arrest for blackmail where the person being blackmailed was provided a receipt from the blackmailers when money changed hands. I was not joking when I used the term bungling idiots for Icelandic criminals.
CBTB: From a technical standpoint, THE RECKONING is a very complex story featuring a number of intersecting plotlines and mysteries. What does your plotting process look like? Do you write from a detailed outline, or do you allow the story to unfold naturally as you write?
YS: I do a bit of both. I know the starting point (A), I know the ending (B) and I think I know how I am going from A to B. However, this voyage usually changes quite a lot during the writing process. I very often throw in strange things I have no idea how I am going to fit into the plot, to make the writing more fun and the read more thrilling. After doing so I then take two days to think about how I am going to deal with this haphazard development and to date I have never become stuck. The thing is that when writing you control everything in the story. The weather, the character’s actions, all events and even the traffic. So if you need the international space station to fall from the sky on someone’s head then you can do that. The trick is to underpin this event in the preceding pages so that it does not appear random and seems like a logical development. The harder I make the writing of a novel for myself, the better the story will turn out.
CBTB: When you’re not writing crime fiction, do you also enjoy reading crime fiction? If so, could you share with us a few crime books you’ve recently read and enjoyed?
YS: I love crime fiction and most books that I read fall into that category. I recently read an advance copy of the Hunting Party by Lucy Foley and really, really liked it. I am also an avid reader of the fabulous Sara Blædel who can’t churn out the books fast enough to satisfy my appetite for her work. I am also a big fan of my fellow Icelander Ragnar Jonasson and just finished his latest book in Icelandic called “Þorpið” which in English translation will be titled “The Girl Who Died” – a terrific read.
CBTB: What are you working on next?
YS: I am about start on the sixth and possibly last book in the Freyja and Huldar/Children’s House series. It will depend on how I feel while writing this book, if they will stay on my radar or disappear. I am however certain of one thing. After this 6th in the series I am going to write another ghost story. It has been too long since I wrote I Remember You. I find that it works wonders for the creative juices to jump around genre wise every now and again. Long term I intend to write an apocalyptic novel at some point and am not totally against the idea of writing another children’s book (with no murder at all, not one).
Many thanks to Yrsa for answering my questions, and to her publisher for facilitating this Q&A! THE RECKONING is on sale now from Minotaur Books.
Series: Children's House (Book 2)
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books (February 12, 2019)
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