‘TEACHER WANTED ON THE EDGE OF THE WORLD . . .’
Una knows she is struggling to deal with her father’s sudden, tragic suicide. She spends her nights drinking alone in Reykjavik, stricken with thoughts that she might one day follow in his footsteps.
So when she sees an advert seeking a teacher for two girls in the tiny village of Skálar – population of ten – on the storm-battered north coast of the island, she sees it as a chance to escape.
But once she arrives, Una quickly realises nothing in city life has prepared her for this. The villagers are unfriendly. The weather is bleak. And, from the creaky attic bedroom of the old house where she’s living, she’s convinced she hears the ghostly sound of singing.
Una worries that she’s losing her mind.
And then, just before midwinter, a young girl from the village is found dead. Now there are only nine villagers left – and Una fears that one of them has blood on their hands . . .
This is the fifth Ragnar Jonasson novel I have read now and he really has become an auto read for me. Still wonderfully Scandi Noir, as you would expect from this author, but with more of a chilly ghost story like feel to this new stand alone novel, I devoured it over a weekend. Wonderfully atmospheric, the lack of daylight and a slightly unreliable narrator made this a wonderfully creepy read.
Set in 1985/6 it follows Una, a thirty year old substitute teacher currently living in Rrykjavik. Unsettled, unsatisfied and with money constantly running tight, she is looking for a change of scene. Still suffering mentally from the suicide of her father and a growing disconnection from her mother, she has little to keep her in the city.
When her friend Sara comes round with a copy of the newspaper, she shows Una an advert for a teaching position in a very remote village called Skalar, in the very north-eastern tip of Iceland. With a population of only 10 people the advert is headed ‘Teacher Wanted At The Edge Of The World’ and persuades Una to apply.
Una gets the position and finds herself lodging in one of the houses in the village with a woman called Salka and her daughter, one of the two children Una will be teaching during the time of her stay. However the house has a strange feel about it and Una learns of an unsettling story of a young girl connected to the house.
With not a lot else to do in the village after her teaching duties have finished, Una tries to connect with the few others living there, but they all seem to be extremely private people and she doesn’t feel that welcomed so starts to have second thoughts about taking up the job. She however, meets Thor. More of her own age to the other villagers she feels a connection between them.
The story that follows is a wonderfully creepy tale, as we see Una become increasingly isolated as the winter darkness sets in, her evening sightings of the ghost of the girl, in the local story and her increasing intake of wine, all add to the unsettling feel of the book, and as the other residents start to turn against her, hiding secrets they clearly don’t want anyone outside the village to learn about, things start to become menacingly tense and the book takes on a claustrophobic quality the this author writes of so well. With a traumatic event happening at the Christmas service, and a stranger knocking at Sulka’s front door, is Una about to get involved in something dangerous? As she learns more of this isolated community the answer may turn out to be a definite YES.
An enthralling thriller read with a touch of the supernatural. Recommended reading.