Publisher: Minotaur Books + Macmillan Audio
Release Date: May 04, 2021
Genre: Nordic Noir / Icelandic Mystery
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.
I did it! I finally read a book by Ragnar Jónasson! I will admit that this author has been on my radar for quite a while now, but I hadn’t gotten around to reading anything by him. The Girl Who Died: A Novel is a little bit supernatural, a little creepy, and VERY claustrophobic. I was a big fan of the ghost aspect although I could have taken a lot more of it, and I especially liked the mystery of Skálar’s past. It becomes evident fairly quickly that the townspeople are keeping things from Una, and I loved that she was sleuthing away trying to figure out what was going on. I think this is actually my first time reading a book set in Iceland, and the isolated village made for a very ominous and atmospheric setting. There is one other viewpoint besides Una, but I don’t want to give anything away, so I won’t say who it is, but I really liked the mix of the two for the sake of the plot.
I listened to the audiobook of The Girl Who Died and quite enjoyed it. The narrator is Amanda Redman who I’ve never listened to before, and she did a fantastic job. This is a slow burn mystery as well, so I’m happy I did the audio which really helped with the pacing. I basically listened to the whole thing in one sitting, and while I wouldn’t call it SUPER twisty, it still has some great twists, and I didn’t suspect the end even a little bit. I was hoping to be more creeped out by the ghosts, but I found that to be a really small part of the actual plot and you can definitely leave the lights off for this one. I thought the translation was great which to me can really make or break a translated novel, and I loved this taste I got of Jónasson’s writing! I will be looking forward to reading more from him very soon.
I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.