The Girl Who Died by Ragnar Jonasson, translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb

Penguin| 3 June 2021| 328 pages| Review Copy| 3*


After the loss of her father, Una sees a chance to escape Reykjavík to tutor two girls in the tiny village of Skálar – population just ten – on Iceland’s storm-battered north coast.

But city life hasn’t prepared her for the unforgiving weather nor inhospitable village life. Worse, the creaky old house where she lives is playing on her already fragile mind when she’s convinced she hears the ghostly sound of singing.

Then, at midwinter, a young girl is found dead.

And one of the villagers must have blood on their hands . . .

The Girl Who Died is Icelandic noir, a mix of horror and psychological thriller, with a strong sense of place. Skálar is a close-knit community that doesn’t welcome newcomers, keeping its secrets well hidden. The only person who welcomes Una, to the village is Salka, the mother of Edda, one of the two girls Una is to teach. But even her welcome is short lived.

When Una arrived she had the feeling that it was like being a folk tale, an ominous supernatural tale set in a vague shifting world where nothing was solid or real, almost like a ghost town. The feeling grows stronger when she sees a little girl with long, pale hair in the window of Salka’s house – but Salka tells her that Edda was in bed. Later she discovers that the ghost of a young girl who had died fifty years earlier was said to haunt the house.

The supernatural elements of the story and the dark brooding atmosphere add to the mystery, but it is not quite as creepy or chilling as I’d thought it would be, mainly because of the slow plodding pace. Also I’m in two minds about Una as I really didn’t find her a very interesting character. And I began to care less and less about what was happening to her. Overall I found it a bit disappointing, and I found the ending puzzling.

However, the Author’s Note is interesting. Jonasson explains that Skálar is a real place. But it was abandoned in the mid 1950s, so the setting is real, but the buildings and the characters are fictitious. However, he has tried to give an accurate representation of the history of Skálar that describes in the book. He has also used the folk tales in Sigfús Sigfússon’s collections of Icelandic tales and legends.

My thanks to the publishers for a review copy via NetGalley.

Ghost Walk by Alanna Knight

The 4th book in Alanna Knight’s Rose McQuinn historical crime fiction series, Ghost Walk is set in 1897 mainly in Eildon, a village in the Scottish Borders.

Three years have passed since Rose McQuinn’s husband, Danny, disappeared in Arizona, whilst working for Pinkerton’s Detective Agency. During that time she has become a Lady Investigator and is about to marry her lover, Detective Inspector Jack Macmerry of the Edinburgh Police. But when a nun from the local convent claims to have received a letter from Danny she is anxious to find out if he is still alive. Rose hopes Danny’s older relative, Father McQuinn, a priest living in the village of Eildon in the Scottish Borders will be able to tell her more.

Rose lives in Solomon’s Tower, a (fictional) tower at the foot of Arthur’s Seat, an old volcano in Edinburgh. A mysterious deerhound, Thane lives somewhere on Arthur’s Seat and often accompanies her. There is a deep bond between the two of them and he often seems to read her mind and understand when she is in danger. As the novel begins Rose and Thane go to Eildon, to meet her future in-laws, just before the wedding, which will also give her an opportunity to talk to Father McQuinn. However, before she can ask him about Danny, he dies under mysterious circumstances and Rose becomes convinced that both his death and that of his housekeeper are in fact murders.

But the main focus of this book is not the murder mystery, nor the suspicions about a Fenian plot to assassinate Queen Victoria during the Jubilee celebrations, but the relationships between Rose and Jack, who has to stay in Edinburgh to testify at a trial, and also between Rose and Jack’s parents, particularly his mother who refuses to acknowledge that Rose is a widow. It also highlights the position of women in a country village during that period. I wanted to know more about Thane, particularly his role at the end of the book – how did he escape with his life?

I liked Rose for her determination to discover the truth and her persistence in being a Lady Detective, despite much opposition. There are nine books in the Rose McQuinn series. I’ve read the first one as well as Ghost Walk and hope to read the others to find out more about her.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Allison & Busby (6 Sept. 2012)
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 537 KB
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 288 pages
  • My own copy
  • Rating: 3*

Six Degrees of Separation from Beach Road to The Nightingale

It’s time again for Six Degrees of Separation, a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

The starting book this month is Beach Road by Emily Henry. I haven’t read this and it doesn’t look like a book I’d enjoy, described as a laugh-out-loud love story.

My First link is the word ‘beach’ in the title. It is The Body on the Beach by Simon Brett, a murder mystery I read in July 2010, the first in Simon Brett’s Fethering Mysteries. It’s an easy read, a ‘cozy mystery’ set in a fictitious village on the south coast of England where Carole Seddon has taken early retirement. She discovers a dead body on the beach but by the time the police arrive it had disappeared. She joins forces with her new neighbour, Jude, to solve the mystery.

My Second Link is also a book I read in July 2010 – Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky. Set in 1941-2 it is a novel of the personal lives of the ordinary people of France under the German occupation of their country. Irène was interned in France because she was of Jewish descent. Despite all their efforts her friends and family were unable to find out where she was sent and her fate in Auschwitz was not known until after the end of the war.

My Third Link is also by Némirovsky, Fire in the Blood. This is an intense story of life and death, love and burning passion. It’s about families and their relationships – husbands and wives, young women married to old men,  lovers, mothers, daughters and stepdaughters. 

My Fourth Link is set in Devon in 1944 about a different type of fire. It is Fire in the Thatch by E C R Lorac. When Little Thatch is destroyed in a blaze, the tenant Norman Vaughan is found in the burnt-out debris and Chief Inspector Macdonald of New Scotland Yard is asked to investigate the case.  

My Fifth Link is another E C R Lorac murder mystery set during the Second World War, Murder by Matchlight. It’s set in London in 1945, in the darkness of the blackout as the bombs are still falling. A murder takes place in almost complete darkness in Regent’s Park and Chief Inspector Robert Macdonald is put in charge of the investigation.

My Sixth Link is another novel set during WW2, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. It is one of the most moving books I’ve read. It tells of two French sisters and their experiences during the occupation of France in the Second World War. 

My chain after starting with Beach Road, described as a ‘witty love story that will make you laugh a lot, cry a little and fall head over heels, became dominated by murder mysteries and books set mostly during the Second World War.

Next month (4, February 2023), we’ll start with Trust by Hernan Diaz. It was Longlisted for the Booker Prize,The Sunday Times Bestseller and the book that topped the most Best Books of 2022 pick – New York TimesTIME, Slate, Oprah DailyKirkus, LA Times, EW. And I haven’t read it.

Wanderlust Bingo 2023/4

FictionFan is doing another Wanderlust Bingo card for 2023/4 – it’s a two year challenge. It took me two years to complete the first card and I’m looking forward to this new challenge. There are some slight changes from the original card but the idea is still the same – any type of book will count – crime, fiction, science fiction, non-fiction. A country can only appear once and a book can only fill one box. For further details see this post.

I’ve made a good start, as I realised that the first three books I’ve read this year fill three of the boxes:

North America (USA) – The Stroke of Winter by Wendy Webb

Nordic (Iceland) – The Girl Who Died by Ragnar Jonasson

Scotland (Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders) – Ghost Walk by Alanna Knight

I’ll be writing reviews as soon as I can.

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Books of 2022

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog. The topic this week is a Favourite Books of 2022.

I rated most of the books I read 4* or 5*. These are ten of my 5* books with links in the titles to my reviews where they exist.On another day Icould easily pick a list of ten different favorite books.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Last Man in Tower by Aravind Adiga 

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

The Riddle of the Third Mile by Colin Dexter

The Hiding Place by Simon Lelic

he Honourable Schoolboy by John le Carré

The Last Trial by Scott Turow

The Man in the Bunker by Rory Clements

How To Catch a Mole by Marc Hamer – nonfiction

Happy New Year 2023

This is January’s picture in my new calendar for 2023, Space for Nature paintings of inspiring places by Leo du Feu, This a pastel painting of a humpback whale along the Fife coast.

I haven’t made any definite reading plans for 2023 just yet as I’m still wondering whether to join any reading challenges because recently I’ve fallen so far behind with writing reviews. I have joined the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2023 and will most certainly be checking what’s involved in FictionFan’s new Wanderlust Bingo Card. But so far that’s it. Whatever I read I intend to take my time and enjoy the books I choose – whatever I fancy reading next.

What about you? What plans if any do you have for 2023?  

My Life in Books 2022

I’ve seen this recently on several blogs and in the past I’ve done slightly different versions.The idea is simple: Using only books you have read this year, answer these prompts. Try not to repeat a book title. 

Links in the titles below will take you to my reviews where they exist.

In high school I (read)Maigret’s Memoirs by Georges Simenon

People might be surprised byThe Riddle of the Third Mile (Colin Dexter)

I will never be: Lord of the Flies (William Golding)

My life post-lockdown was: State of Wonder (Ann Patchett)

My fantasy Job is: Talking About Detective Fiction (P D James)

At the end of a long day I need: A Room With a View (E M Forster)

I hate being: The Queen’s Lady (Joanne Hickson)

I wish I had: The Second Sight of Zachery Cloudesley (Sean Lusk)

My family reunions are (at): The Chalet (Catherine Cooper)

At a party you’d find me (with) The Honourable Schoolboy (John le Carré)

I’ve never been to A Town Like Alice (Nevil Shute)

A happy day includes: Small Things Like These (Claire Keegan)

Motto I live byNow and Forever (Ray Bradbury)

On my bucket list is (to find): Where the Crawdads Sing (Delia Owens)

In my next life, I want to have: The Fellowship of the Ring (J R R Tolkien)

Wanderlust Bingo Challenge

I have completed reading the books for this challenge, although there are four that I haven’t reviewed. It has taken me two years and I’ve read 25 books, some of which I wouldn’t have thought of reading if it hadn’t been for this challenge. I travelled round the world and ventured into Outer Space in Ray Bradbury’s Leviathan ’99 and into the realms of fantasy in J R R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Ring Trilogy.

I enjoyed all of them, especially the 5 star books marked with an asterisk *.

Here’s the final list with links to my reviews (where they exist):

North America (USAInland by Téa Obreht

Small Town ( CanadaA Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson*

Island (CreteGreece) The Island by Victoria Hislop

Train (travelling from Ostend to Constantinople, via Cologne, Vienna and Belgrade) Stamboul Train by Graham Greene

Far East (Hong Kong, CambodiaThe Honourable Schoolboy by John le Carré*

Indian Sub-Continent (India) Last Man in Tower by Aravind Adiga*

Village (IrelandThe Wonder by Emma Donoghue *

Oceania (AustraliaA Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville

Forest (GermanyWhite Rose, Black Forest by Eoin Dempsey

Space (The Universe) Leviathan ’99

Mountain (Spain and other countries ) The Moon Sister by Lucinda Riley

South America (based on Peru) Bel Canto by Ann Patchett*

Free Square (Middle Earth) The Fellowship of the Ring by J R R Tolkien*

River (Rio Negro in BrazilState of Wonder by Ann Patchett*

Polar Regions (The South Pole, Antarctica)– Ice Bound by Jerri Nielsen* (nonfiction)

Desert (Saudi Arabia) The Night of the Mi’raj by Zoë Ferraris

Walk (Malaya) A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

Southeast Asia (Vietnam) The Quiet American by Graham Greene

Africa (Belgian Congo) Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Beach (England) The Night Hawks by Elly Griffiths

Road (ScotlandCoffin Road by Peter May*

Europe (Belgium) Ashes by Christopher de Vinck

Sea (in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Cuba) The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Middle East (present-day Iraq, Kuwait, and parts of Iran, Syria, and Turkey) Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie

City (FranceThe Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles


My thanks to FictionFan who devised this challenge – I’m looking to seeing what she comes up with next.

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: Winter Garden by Beryl Bainbridge

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading. You can also share from a book you want to highlight just because it caught your fancy.

One of the books I’m currently reading is Winter Garden by Beryl Bainbridge. I’ve enjoyed some of her other books so I’m hopingto enjoy this one too.

My Book Beginning:

One morning early in October, a man called Ashburner, tightly buttoned into a black overcoat and holding a suitcase, tried to leave his bedroom on the second floor of a house in Beaufort Street.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice, where you grab a book and turn to page 56 (or 56% of an eBook), find one or more interesting sentences (no spoilers), and post them.

Page 56:

Only last week there had been a report in the Guardian about an innocent bystander from Manchester who had gone to some meeting or other behind the Iron Curtain and disappeared for three days.


Quiet and reliable, Douglas Ashburner has never been much of a womaniser. So when he begins an extra-marital affair with Nina, a bossy, temperamental artist with a penchant for risky sex, he finds adultery a terrible strain.

He tells his wife that he needs a rest, so she happily packs him off for a fishing holiday in the Highlands. Only, unknown to her, Douglas is actually flying off to Moscow with Nina, as a guest of the Soviet Artists’ Union. It is then that things begin to get very complicated indeed…

What do you think? What are you currently reading?