“Do you not then hear this horrible scream all around you that men usually call silence.” –The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser
Full disclosure: I don’t have one nautical bone in my body.
Besides having crippling motion sickness, the idea of spending any amount of time aboard something with a higher than average likelihood of sinking into the sea is like some new dimension of hell.
I have been on boats in the past, and I have never had a feeling where I thought, “This is fine. Let’s do this more.” In all honesty, most of those trips ended with me crawling to shore, begging for the dizziness to stop and my land legs to be regained.
It pretty much goes without saying that I have little to no concept of ships and sailing vessels. I don’t understand the terminology. All I know is that if this shit hits something, we’re going down. Game over.
So, one would think that using a malfunctioning ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with a murderous crew and an innocent family would make for a creepy, appealing thriller.
Wrong. This is where Yrsa Sigurdardóttir 2016 novel The Silence of the Sea totally misses the boat, literally and figuratively.
As a debut novel, Silence of the Sea leaves a lot to be desired- like, perhaps, I don’t know, a comprehensible plot with rounded, interesting characters. It is a mystery/thriller that drags on for ages and easily loses readers with both confusing, specialized boat terminology and a generally bizarre story line.
The novel flips between two stories; the primary being that a private luxury yacht arrives at its destination completely deserted. Its 7 crew members and passengers that were set to arrive in a Reykjavik harbor are nowhere to be found, leading to the secondary plot line that follows Thora Gudmundsdottir, a lawyer hired by one of the missing man’s parents to solve the mystery of what happened aboard the vessel.
What proceeds are 325 pages of either nothing happening or too much happening that it’s impossible to decipher what’s going on. If you choose to read this novel, be prepared to have to Google a lot of words. What’s a ________? x50
There are genuinely creepy moments in Silence of the Sea; I will give it that. However, the reader is primarily lead to believe the ship is haunted, which really makes it much more of a thriller. Sadly (who knew not being haunted would be sad), this is not the case, leaving the reader to go back and ask, “Wait, what?”
The story line is also nothing short of bizarre and hardly believable. I like the idea of the abandoned ship- that part makes for an interesting tale. But the idea of having a lawyer act as the sole detective in the case is strange, but maybe this is an Icelandic thing that differs from the American norm.
The story is also like an exercise in estate planning. There are literally pages and pages where Thora is focused on legal paperwork or dull day-to-day administrative duties. Like I don’t do enough of that in my life.
In the end, Thora’s goal is to prove Aegir, Lara, and their two little girls, all passengers aboard the ship, are in fact dead and not trying to pull a fast one on the insurance company in order to get the money, which is a weird twist on the usual take where readers follow the cops as they actually attempt to solve the murder.
The characters aren’t terribly believable either, with the exception of the twins. Thora herself is incredibly boring, and we know virtually nothing about her except that she’s divorced with a German boyfriend and family drama between her and her kids. Everyone remains flat and droll as can be.
This is made worse by what I guess is an awkward translation of Icelandic to English. The sentences often don’t flow well, and it’s difficult to determine if its a matter of translation from the Icelandic or if it’s poor writing.
No mater which it is, I would urge readers to have Google by their side if they choose to read the Silence of the Sea. And be prepared to never want to go to sea again. You’re reminded by this novel that it’s just some kind of fresh hell.
Star Rating: 2 out of 5