Tuesday Terror! I Remember You by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir

At last! A book that fully deserves the title of Fretful Porpentine! Light the candles, lock the doors and get ready for…


Tense and terrifying…

i remember youThree people arrive at a deserted village to renovate a house. There is no way back to civilisation except by the boat which will return for them in a week’s time. But it’s not long before odd things are happening…and who is the strange child they keep catching glimpses of? Meantime in the town of Isafjördur, psychiatrist Freyr has been called in to a case of vandalism in the local school, where amidst the destruction one word has been scrawled in crayon on the wall – ‘DIRTY’. As Freyr and the police begin to investigate, it appears that this episode mirrors one from 60 years before…and that terrible things have been happening to the people who were children in that earlier class. And somehow the case seems to be linked to Freyr’s own son who went missing three years ago and has never been found…

I recently read Sigurdardóttir’s Someone to Watch Over Me which, while primarily a traditional crime story, had a sub-plot concerning a possible haunting. Her excellent writing in these sections created a chilling and decidedly creepy atmosphere. So I was very intrigued to see if she could maintain that in a novel that is much more centred around the supernatural. The answer is both yes and no.

Isafjördur Photo by Oddurjons
Photo by Oddurjons

The first half of this book is the scariest thing I’ve read in a long, long time. Sigurdardóttir’s writing and the excellent translation by Philip Roughton build an atmosphere so tense that I genuinely had to stop reading it at bedtime because I was too freaked to put the light out! I can’t quite explain why – it should all have been very clichéd – deserted house, ghostly children, noises in the night, strange smells and creepy childish chuckling. But somehow Sigurdardóttir’s timing and restraint meant that I was constantly on edge. The Freyr plotline takes a while to build, so in the beginning it provides a break from the haunted house plot, though it’s obvious from early on that they’ll be linked in some way. But somehow even when we’re in the relatively safe surroundings of Isafjördur, we’re still worrying about what’s happening to Katrín and the others in the village.

Photo credit:www.ravingravens.com
Photo credit:www.ravingravens.com

Sigurdardóttir takes time to let us get to know and like the characters, particularly Katrín and Freyr, which means that the reader feels a sense of emotional involvement that adds to the fear. And her descriptions of the isolated landscape and harsh weather conditions are great – no electricity, only torchlight and candles and the knowledge that if they leave the house in the night they might freeze to death…brilliantly atmospheric.

Yrsa Sigurdardóttir
Yrsa Sigurdardóttir

The second half of the book is less effective, unfortunately. There’s quite a lot of repetitiveness about the things that are happening in the house which means that eventually they lose their scare factor; and while the main plot concerning the earlier case of vandalism stands up well, the strand relating to Freyr’s son isn’t nearly as satisfactory. And, for me, the ending is the weakest part of the book.

There is a crime and investigation element to the plot, but this is primarily a ghost story with the supernatural taking centre stage. Despite the scariness falling away a bit towards the end, I enjoyed it thoroughly – especially once I gave up the unequal struggle and started reading in the afternoons rather than at night! I can truly say that there were points where each of my particular hairs stood on end like quills upon the fretful porpentine. Highly recommended if you’re looking for something to keep you awake at night…



Fretful porpentine rating:     😯 😯 😯 😯 😯

Overall story rating:              🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

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33 thoughts on “Tuesday Terror! I Remember You by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir

  1. Ha, I just finished reading a ghost story myself, which I thought was more of a crime novel. Perhaps not entirely my cup of tea, but if the atmosphere is well conveyed, can be very effective. But I suspect that level of suspense and creepiness is hard to keep up over the length of a book – perhaps short stories are a better natural medium for ghost stories.

    • Not my usual cuppa either, but I’m quite enjoying the search for good horror. And I much prefer ones like this where it’s all done by good writing and suspense, than any kind of graphic gore-fest. But I think you’re right about these stories being better suited to a shorter format.

  2. FictionFan – Oh, I’m a fan anyway of her work, and it’s so good to hear you like her writing style. She can make your hair stand on end and make you laugh – in the same book. Not an easy feat. Yes, definitely don’t read this one at night unless you enjoy insomnia… 😉

    • She’s such a good writer, and the translator deserves a lot of credit too – it’s easy to forget it’s a translation at all. She definitely does scary suspense far better than most… 😯

  3. Was looking forward to this. But you were naughty, FEF. You shouldn’t have quite reading it at bedtime…that was very naughty, young lady.

    It does seem like a scary one, but of course the professor wouldn’t be scared, you know.

    Is the book separated into two parts?

    • I had to – sleep is very important to FF, you know. Next to chocolate, it may well be my very favourite thing… 😉

      The Professor would have handled it much better than the guy in the house, I’m sure. He was quite brave, but useless. He hadn’t even brought a katana… 😯

      No, there’s two stories (which eventually connect), and it’s done as alternate chapters, so whenever you’re reading you’re still worrying about what’s happening in the other place…very effective.

      • You know, the professor couldn’t agree more with that.

        That is a shock. I would have brought more than just a sword, though, if I was going there!

        And very neatio. Sounds like a real good one. (Have you read all of Austen’s books?)

        • Suffering from severe sleep deprivation at the moment, due to the tennis in Australia being played in the middle of the night…thank goodness for chocolate!

          Nothing would have saved you… 👿

          (Yes – P&P and S&S zillions of times and the rest probably two or three times each. Why? Are you thinking of reading another?)

      • Speaking of terror….I saw two of these shuffling, rattling land urchins arguing with each other as I walked out of my tent—somewhere in southern Africa. Perhaps Botswana. They were LARGE. I seem to recall them being about half my height with their quills erect. I dove back into my tent and watched them ramble off after they’d had enough of each other.

        • Good lord, I had no idea they were that big! I’m revising my opinion from cute to scary. It’s got to be a strange kind of fight though – how on earth would they get close enough to each other to hurt? Ouch!

  4. Sounds great! The setting is perfectly terrifying. Can’t imagine being stuck anywhere where a boat (which I don’t have) has to come and get me! I have her book Ashes to Dust waiting to be read so going to up this one on the TBR list. 😀

    • I’ve only read a couple of her books, but I really like her writing – she’s great at creating an atmosphere and also believable characters. And she does creepy so well… 😯

  5. Great review and I do love an author who can create a good atmosphere but I have a feeling that Someone to Watch Over Me (already on the TBR) will be more in line with my reading tastes…. Plus I usually only really read at night time!

    • Someone to Watch Over Me is really good – and there are some nicely creepy bits in it too (but not too much). I must get around to reading the rest of the series. I do like her writing style very much.

    • Definitely Poe for the writing – it’s just that his stories have been done so oftenm you know what’s going to happen…

      Oooh! Go on, give us a hint. Are you going to be in LF’s gang (boo! hiss!) or mine (yay! hurray!)??? I don’t want to influence you in any way, but I’ve always been a huge admirer of your intelligence, perspicacity and keen insight…and LF never shares her chocolate…

  6. I have to tell you that every Tuesday I laugh, because the phrase ‘fretful porpentine’ always makes me think of Bertie Wooster rather than Shakespeare! (Although I can’t remember which book he and Jeeves discussed the phrase!)

    • 😆 I think most of the Shakespeare quotes I know came via Bertie rather than from Will! If memory serves me right Bertie was criticising Shakespeare for spelling porcupine wrongly…

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