The Silence of the Sea by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

16th Apr 2015

The Silence of the Sea
Yrsa Sigurdardottir, an internationally bestselling Scandinavian author whose works have so far been overlooked in a British crime market that has gone into Scandi-crime overload, has finally released the critically acclaimed The Silence of the Sea in English.

This novel is an example of true perfection. The dialogue is crisp and believable, the plot both terrifying and tense, the characters natural and engaging. The sea itself becomes personified as a background character, casually stalking the investigation and punctuating the narrative with a dialogue which is both alien and strangely understandable to the reader. If anyone ever tells you that crime fiction is engaging but poorly written, give them this book as proof to the contrary.

If anyone ever tells you that crime fiction is engaging but poorly written, give them this book as proof to the contrary.The novel tells the story of a luxury yacht, being returned from Portugal to Iceland by the loan company who has seized control of its owners’ assets. The three crew members, along with a reluctant forth made up by the loan company employee working on removing the vessel and his young family, disappear and the yacht returns to harbour empty, crashing into a harbour wall for lack of control. The parents of the loan company employee hire a lawyer, Thora Gudmundsdottir, to help them prove their son’s death in order to aid their custody battle for his youngest daughter, who was left in their charge and now faces an uncertain future.

If there is any criticism to be levelled against this novel, it is that Thora behaves and is treated in the novel far less like a lawyer and more like a private detective. Beyond this, the technical language and specialist knowledge displayed in the text is frankly stunning. Sigurdardottir makes the world of luxury yachts seem both surreal and at the same time wholly believable, highlighting both the immense money required to own and maintain such a vessel and the fact that, in reality, they just are just large, shiny boats. The legal minefield into which Thora and her new clients are plunged is also both inviting and daunting to the reader, but the author guides the narrative through the paper trail with such skill that even the drab, dreary tasks performed by the protagonist seem thrillingly mundane.

In short, read this novel. It is both groundbreaking and strangely satisfying. The atmosphere and tension woven within every syllable is an example of true writing skill, and I would urge you in the strongest possible terms to put this novel firmly at the top of your reading list.