THE UN­DE­SIRED A very cold case

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re­leased OUT NOW! 353 pages | Hard­back/ebook

Author Yrsa sig­ur­dar­d­ot­tir

Pub­lisher Hod­der & stoughton

As a rel­a­tively iso­lated coun­try with a pop­u­la­tion of only about 320,000, Ice­land could be the world’s big­gest small town. Ev­ery­one knows ev­ery­one, and has done for yonks. It makes a fas­ci­nat­ing study for ge­neal­o­gists – and a ter­ri­fy­ingly claus­tro­pho­bic set­ting for a hor­ror novel, be­cause when some­thing hor­ri­ble hap­pens, ev­ery­one’s af­fected.

There are two sto­ries in The Un­de­sired, but, ap­pro­pri­ately, they’re linked. In the first, a run­away in the ’70s finds a job at a ju­ve­nile de­ten­tion cen­tre where the sadis­tic own­ers scare the staff as much as the boys. In the sec­ond, a gov­ern­ment em­ployee in­ves­ti­gates wrong­do­ing at the now-closed fa­cil­ity while strug­gling to re­late to his pre-teen daugh­ter af­ter his ex-wife’s un­timely death.

Both sto­ries fea­ture un­wanted kids and mys­te­ri­ous deaths, and both also con­tain mo­ments of shock­ing dark­ness. Any­one hop­ing for a proper scare will be let down, though, be­cause once the con­nec­tion be­tween past and present is re­vealed, it all be­comes de­press­ingly mun­dane. A bit like delv­ing into your fam­ily tree hop­ing to find you’re re­lated to roy­alty, only to dis­cover you’re ac­tu­ally the third cousin twice-re­moved of your least favourite co-worker. Dis­ap­point­ing. Sarah Dobbs

The book’s orig­i­nal Ice­landic ti­tle was Kuldi, which means “cold.” Doesn’t re­ally tell you much, does it?

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