The Legacy

Written by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Review written by Bob Cartwright

The Legacy
Hodder and Stoughton
RRP: £14.99
Released: March 23 2017

When the award-winning Icelandic Queen of Nordic Noir launches a new series, it is time to applaud.

The Legacy kicks off in 1987 with three young children, two boys and a girl, being assessed for fostering. Something horrendous has befallen the children though we are not told the circumstances. Different agencies are involved in the assessment; during which a strong case is made for fostering the three together. However, the final conclusion is that the children will do better [in terms of foster families], if the three are separated.

We flash-forward to 2015 to where a young mother is brutally murdered while her husband is abroad [attending a medical conference]. There is a witness to the murder; the seven year old daughter who was awakened by the intruder and hid under the parental bed. Her two younger brothers were locked in their bedroom, and were found by neighbours in the morning [having escaped through a window]. The murder investigation falls to the relatively inexperienced Haldur, as the more senior detectives are otherwise occupied, in an internal malpractice investigation.

What the young girl saw and heard while hiding under the bed is crucial to the investigation. Haldur wants to interview her at the earliest opportunity despite the little girl suffering serious trauma. But first Haldur has to get the approval of Freyja, the newly appointed director of the Children’s House [an offshoot of the Child Protection Agency]. Ironically, Haldur and Freyja had shared a one-night-stand during which he gave a false name, telling her he was a carpenter, and left in the morning without a goodbye. Despite room for an acrimonious professional relationship, Haldur and Freyja work together cohesively to gain the confidence of the young witness, and obtain whatever evidence she can offer.

Meanwhile, the scene shifts to the home of young Karl who lives by himself in the house once also occupied by his mother and older brother. His brother has flown the nest for a life and career in America. With his mother now deceased, Karl has the whole house to himself, and his beloved Citizen Band Radio equipment. Karl’s only real contact with the “real world” is via his CB radio and his two equally geeky pals. His social indifference / isolation stems in large part from his own awareness of having been adopted when young, and his troubled school years. Being similarly adopted [though with different parents] had less of an impact on his older brother, except for his obsessional need to find the identity of his biological parents. That obsession comes to the fore when he learns that Karl intends to throw out all of their mother’s possessions. Karl is unwittingly drawn into the murder inquiry when he starts to receive coded radio messages relating to the murders, which also suggest that more killings can be expected. That threat materialises when an elderly retired maths teacher appears targeted by a brutal killer. Despite similarities to the earlier case, Haldur and his team of detectives can find no links between the two victims.

Though it takes time; the formal police investigations come full circle with linkages between the current murders, and what exactly happened to the three children in 1987 [that opened this dark tale]. The reader must remain patient as the author manages to tease out the details with calculated measure. The reader’s patience is well and truly rewarded for the dénouement is stunning, boding well for a new series from this elegant writer with an imagination as dark as an Icelandic evening. 

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