How could you go wrong with something that starts “Teacher needed for the edge of the world”? That sounds promising, doesn’t it?
Alas, although I am a fan of Ragnar Jonasson otherwise, The Girl Who Died just does not live up to his other books.
The teacher is Una, the edge of the world is the remote village of Skalar (population:10), and there are two girls who die, one in this time, and one in a previous time. There is – remarkably – even a hunky guy for Una to crush on, which is a good respite from the weirdos who otherwise populate the town. Her charges are two girls, and that’s the extent of her classroom. We don’t get a lot of lookins on lessons: just enough to know that one girl is outgoing, can sing, and is the swan, the other is introverted, can’t carry a tune, and is probably an embarrassment to her mother and her lech of a father, who hits on Una when she meets him.
The best thing about this book is the setting – and more specifically, the outdoor setting. The bleak and barren landscape is described with a suitable creepiness, and may as well be on the dark side of the moon on the remoteness scale.
The plot moves along – Una sees ghost her first day in town, which told me right off I[‘d chosen poorly in this instance. I’m just not a fan of ghost stories, and while Una’s feelings while in house, alone, were well-described, at times she seemed on the edge of the hysteria abyss, about to fall in.
There’s a random subplot that suddenly pops up about 3/4 of the way through, which just dissolves into nothing, and there is a death that was intended for someone else.
The end just fizzled for me, as it was terribly anticlimactic. Una may be part of the town now, but to me, she belongs back in the city.
Two stars out of five. I’m treating this as a one-off and look forward to Jonasson’s next book.
Thanks to St Martin’s and NetGalley for the review copy.