Amy Myers is known for her short stories and historical novels featuring Victorian chef Auguste Didier and chimney sweep Tom Wasp. Her contemporary series features classic car detective Jack Colby, and she is currently working on a new 1920s mystery series featuring Nell Drury, chef at Kent’s Wychbourne Court.
Someone to Watch Over Me is the acclaimed Icelandic author’s sixth novel for adults, and the fifth in the series starring the popular lawyer Thóra. Yrsa also writes prize-winning books for children, but her thriller writing is most definitely for adults. With a labyrinthine plot and told in a readable, straightforward style, Someone to Watch Over Me is a gripping and memorable novel.
Thóra is called to a Secure Psychiatric Unit at the request of inmate Jósteinn, imprisoned for serious sexual offences against children. To her surprise it is not his own case that he wants reopened, but that of a fellow inmate with Down’s syndrome, Jakob, a young man found guilty of burning down the care centre to which he had been sent, which had resulted in the deaths of five inmates. Thóra takes the case and pursues the truth of what went on in the care centre; it proves hard to unravel, especially when another factor might be linked to it – the preface of the book has introduced the reader to a mother and son whose baby-sitter had been killed in a hit and run accident, and whose spirit still seems to haunt them.
Thóra is a refreshingly human protagonist: she has doubts, she makes slips, she is squeamish and believable. The other characters are less vivid, partly because their Icelandic names obviously make a slight barrier for readers unaccustomed to them and partly because the strength of the novel lies in the build-up and unravelling of the plot. But this quibble aside, long may Thóra’s career flourish.
Translated from the Icelandic by Philip Roughton