Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Yule Island by Johana Gustawsson

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Johana Gustawsson's latest, Yule Island

Emma Lindahl is a young and ambitious art expert recently hired on at Von Dardel's, a small but prestigious auction and appraisal house. Through this new position, she's been assigned a fabulous opportunity: cataloging and assessing the Gussman collection at their remote home on Storholmen island. 

But the Gussmans are strange. Her hours are severely limited, her access is confined to specific rooms, and her interaction with the family is all but nonexistent. 

Then there's the island history itself and the fact that a girl was found murdered on the grounds less than a decade before.

Emma tries not to let all of this get to her, but when another body is found nearby, it becomes clear there's something very wrong on Storholmen.

Yule Island is so much creepy fun!

A manor house with dark secrets, a remote island with very small community, and the most fabulous dark Scandinavian lore! Plus, Gustawsson pulls off some truly amazing twists!

The story alternates POVs between Emma; Karl, a local cop; and Viktoria, an employee at the manor. 

Emma is hesitant about her job. And with good reason. The Gussmans are an off-putting family who almost seem to resent her for being there to do the job they hired her for. It's a strange environment, to say the least. 

Karl worked the still open nine-year-old murder case and it haunts him to this day. When another body is found, he's called in even though his own wife has recently gone missing. And yet, the work keeps him busy, keeps him away from their home and their memories, and maybe even gives him a chance at the personal redemption he needs in the wake of the earlier unsolved crime. 

Viktoria has always worked in high-end resort hotels, but the opportunity for a live-in position with the Gussmans offers both her and her daughter a chance to escape her overbearing and emotionally abusive husband. But that doesn't keep him from turning up asking for money occasionally. She gives us a fly-on-the-wall view of the residents of the manor, which becomes increasingly strange and fascinating for the reader!

As I mentioned, Gustawsson has some excellent twists in this book. Some are the kind a savvy reader may see coming while others are a complete surprise. Either way, they make for an intense read. 

And then there's the lore I mentioned. As a whole the book is a wonderful read, but this piece makes it such a stand out. I know next to nothing about Yule lore (the celebration that predates Christmas) and honestly just eat up things like this, begging for more!

Gustawsson hooked me with her previous release, The Bleeding, and as a result Yule Island was already in my must read list and I have to say it did not disappoint!

Friday, December 1, 2023

Dead Sweet by Katrín Júlíusdóttir

It's December, readers! And today I'm kicking off the Random Things blog tour for Katrín Júlíusdóttir's Dead Sweet!

Óttar Karlsson's girlfriend is thrilled to throw him a surprise party for his 50th birthday. She's hired out caterers to make an American barbecue feast, in honor of Óttar's having earned his degree in the States. She's even gone to the trouble to track down old friends from school. And no on is more shocked than her when the guest of honor fails to show up. 

Then Óttar's body is found on the beach. After making quite a name for himself in Icelandic politics, the police are sure someone must have wanted revenge for one of his policies. And yet his coworkers all sing his praises and the polls showed support from many of voting citizens. In short, the police are a bit stumped. 

Sigurdís has been working the beat for a while and is eager to prove herself and move up in the rankings at the department. But she's sidelined early on in the investigation. That is until she discovers a hidden safe in the victim's condo with some very interesting evidence. Soon the police have a number of motives that could have prompted the killing. But which one will pan out?

This is the first in a brand new Icelandic crime series! Interestingly, the author has a background in politics, making her well informed for the kind of plot she's built in Dead Sweet. Or at least part of it!

Because politics isn't the only thing driving this mystery. As Sigurdís ensures she's heavily involved in the case, she uncovers more and more secrets about the acclaimed politician. As the reader would expect, the man is anything but squeaky clean. But it's well hidden. And in some cases, deeply hidden!

And yet part of Sigurdís's strength as an investigator is the fact that she has a keen intuition when it comes to investigations. It's earned her the respect of her colleagues, even after an incident that lands her in very hot water with the department. 

All of that said, she can't understand why her boss keeps relegating her to the sidelines. 

But Sigurdís and her boss have a history that soon comes to light as well, making it clear that he feels an obligation to the young officer. 

As Sigurdís's personal story unfolds, so does the victim's. And the author does a very good job building parallels between multiple characters and their varying stories. To say more would, I fear, give too much away, but after the final page I couldn't help but reflect on each parallel that led up to that point. And it makes Sigurdís a very interesting character indeed!

I look forward to seeing what will happen next and how the events of this book will affect the determined young officer down the line!

Shout out to translator Quentin Bates! He's done another excellent job bringing the author's words to us English readers.