Blog Tour: Yule Island, Johana Gustawsson

Book Review: Yule Island, Johana Gustawsson, trans. by David Warriner

Yule Island, Johana Gustawsson

Mystery: Yule Island, Johana Gustawsson, trans. by David Warriner
Blog Tour December 20, 2023


Emma Lindahl is an art expert for a prestigious auction house in Stockholm. After working for Christie’s in NYC, she has returned home to live in the country she loves, to work for twice the salary for a wonderful employer…and to get some peace following the death of her sister some 9 years ago.


When her boss offers her the chance of a lifetime to appraise the contents of a 100 year old estate on an island off the Swedish coast, she feels she must take it. She is not convinced that it is a good idea, though. The mansion is owned by a reclusive family, heirs to the old money that built the mansion and still in charge of the company founded by their patriarch. Despite being inhabited, the home has the reputation of being haunted. And once, a young woman’s body was found hanging from a tree on the estate. That happened 9 years ago. The young woman was Emma’s sister.


That is just the first twist in a book that left me dizzy with turn after turn after turn. Johana Gustawsson has written a mystery tour de force, rich with evocative language, sensual descriptions, and unexpected events in almost every chapter. The two main characters, Emma and Detective Inspector Karl Rosén, bring th eir own determination, intelligence, grit, and baggage to the story. When the body of another young woman is found trapped in the ice near the island, the pair begin to work together as they each process the grief of loss and the demons stalking their lives–and the possibility that whomever killed Emma’s sister has returned to kill again.


I will admit, I did not pay close enough attention to the description. It’s December, it’s Christmas, the book has “Yule” in the title. This yule is much more related to the European origins of the holiday rather than any connection to mangers or angels. Gustawsson includes a tremendous amount of research on the midwinter solstice traditions of the Vikings, but she weaves it into the fabric of the story and lets the characters naturally tell the history. Let’s just say that the ancient Scandinavian use of the yule tree did involve hanging things, but they were not the sort of things that sparkled or glowed.


Despite her Swedish last name, a gift from her husband, Johana is from Marseilles and writes in French. Her home is now in Stockholm with her family. This novel may be dark and gritty, but it also beautifully evokes her adopted home. She is expertly translated here by David Warriner, who also translated her novel The Bleeding which we reviewed previously. They make an outstanding team.


As an aside, it is amazing to think that I am in the United States reading a French novel set in Sweden and translated by a native Briton, then published by a British publisher led by a Canadian. Reading is a gift and a privilege, one that brings people together and focuses their attention on the most amazing gift we can give each other: our stories.


Our thanks to Anne Cater from Random Things for our copy of Yule Island, provided so we could participate in this blog tour. The opinions here are solely those of Scintilla. For other perspectives, check out the other bloggers on this tour.


Yule Island, Johana Gustawsson

Book Review: Yule Island, Johana Gustawsson, trans. by David Warriner

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