MINM Review: The Legacy by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Voted Best Crime Novel of the Year by the Icelandic Crime Authors' Association, The Legacy is the first installment in the Children's House series, written by "Iceland's Queen of Crime", Yrsa Sigurdardottir. The Legacy is an intelligent, slow-burning, character-focused police procedural that methodically reveals layer upon layer of ingenious plotting involving cryptic, coded messages, dark family secrets, and some of the most creatively horrific methods of dispatching victims this reviewer has ever read. Ms. Sigurdardottir can certainly bring the frightening imagery with the best of them (Mo Hayder, have you met Yrsa Sigurdardottir?), and the very first chapter holds the reader in a vise grip as it describes, from the victim's POV, the petrifying minutes leading up to the killing. The novel centers around this first murder of a young mother within her home. One of her three children happens to be present, in hiding, during the mother's murder, and may "hold the key" to identifying the murderer, and solving the mystery. Can child psychologist Freyja, and police officer Huldar (for whom this is his first time leading a big case) win this traumatized, young child's trust, and sensitively persuade her to open up about the nightmarish things that she heard and saw that fateful night? And can Freyja and Huldar protect the only witness from a truly terrifying killer who is still at large? For the answers to these questions, wrapped up in a twist you may never see coming, make The Legacy part of your crime fiction reading list!

Violence: Moderate

Profanity: Mild

Sexual Content: Mild

Explicit Language: Mild

Animal Cruelty: Mild

Thrilling Action: Mild

Red Herrings: Mild-to-Moderate

Twists and Turns: Moderate

Suspense: Moderate

Plot Development: Moderate-to-High

Character Development: Moderate-to-High

Pages: 464 (Hardcover)

The Legacy by Yrsa Sigurdardottir book cover image.jpg

Publisher's Blurb:

The first in a stunning new series from the author of The Silence of the Sea, winner of the 2015 Petrona Award for best Scandinavian Crime Novel.

The Legacy is the first installment in a fantastic new series featuring the psychologist Freyja and the police officer Huldar.

The only person who might have the answers to a baffling murder case is the victim’s seven-year-old daughter, found hiding in the room where her mother died. And she’s not talking.

Newly-promoted, out of his depth, detective Huldar turns to Freyja for her expertise with traumatized young people. Freyja, who distrusts the police in general and Huldar in particular, isn’t best pleased. But she’s determined to keep little Margret safe.

It may prove tricky. The killer is leaving them strange clues, but can they crack the code? And if they do, will they be next?

Best for Crime Fiction Readers:

  • Who appreciate translated works of mystery and crime fiction in general, and "Nordic Noir", in particular. The translation of this novel by Victoria Cribb is excellent.
  • Who enjoy dark, gritty police procedurals.
  • Who enjoy, or don't mind, some romantic tension between characters in their crime fiction. There is just a whisper of it in The Legacy.
  • Who enjoy crime fiction with "amateur detectives". There is a very clever subplot involving coded messages that ends up drawing one or more persons outside of law enforcement, and outside of The Children's House staff, into the book's central mystery.
  • Who are interested in child psychology.
  • Who don't mind reading about "creative" and not-for-the-faint-of-heart methods of inflicting harm. The acts themselves are not described in an overly graphic and/or gratuitous way. What makes them so horrifying is the combination of the methods and implements used, which the reader learns about after the fact, as well as the palpable terror of the victims, leading up to their demise. 
  • Who enjoy more "literary" crime fiction, full of internal musings and analysis. While the scenes of murder are gripping, and the denouement is very suspenseful, The Legacy may not be the best choice for those readers looking for a fast-paced roller coaster-of-a-thriller.
  • Who appreciate crime fiction with twists in the tale. The resolution of The Legacy includes a shocking twist that this reviewer never saw coming!

MINM Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Are you new to Nordic and Scandinavian crime fiction? Have you read Yrsa Sigurdardottir before? Which of her other books would you especially recommend?

Mystery in Minutes would love to hear from you!