In Gallows Rock, the fourth book in Yrsa Sigurdardoittir’s “Children’s House” series, a traditional site for executions during ancient times becomes the harrowing location for a modern-day Icelandic murder. For this outing, the main character is Detective Huldar, but series fans who expect child psychologist Freyja to factor into the investigation will not be disappointed. As this series develops, it really is becoming more of an ensemble piece, with both the police station and Children’s House employees, as well as their friends and family all developing as complex characters.

Yrsa Sigurdardottir starts her novel with the murder that dominates its pages. Readers become witness to a man being hung between the rock outcroppings and a note literally being nailed to his chest. This death and the victim identification lead Huldar and crew to his residence where they find a four-year-old boy frightened and alone. The boy doesn’t know the murdered man and has no idea why his parents seem to have vanished.

As she has demonstrated countless times across the “Children’s House” series, Yrsa Sigurdardottir excels when developing younger characters. She has an innate understanding of how children think and the ways in which officials would approach gathering information from them. This is of course where Freyja comes into the picture. The frustratingly complex on-again/off-again relationship between Freyja and Huldar once again factors into their exchanges here, though to a lesser degree than previously. Yrsa Sigurdardottir seems on the cusp of altering that relationship one way or the other within the next few volumes of this excellent series.

The Gallows Rock case itself takes many unexpected turns and weaves in some very timely discussions. One of Huldar’s colleagues is struggling with being gay while on the police force and would like to keep that personal information from his fellow officers – even as the actions taken during the investigation threaten to unintentionally expose his private life. Meanwhile, a revelation about the boy’s mother ratchets up the tension and adds the need for a speedy resolution to the mix. Both the procedural elements – those of the police and of the child welfare team – are handled with verisimilitude without getting bogged down in bureaucratic details.

When Yrsa Sigurdardottir released the first “Children’s House” novel – The Legacy – it was immediately clear this was a series that would have a long run and a devoted following of fans. With Gallows Rock, she proves there is still so much to explore with these characters and the cases they become involved with. Fans – both new and old – will rejoice and anxiously await the next in the series. That book, The Doll, is already available and longtime fans of Yrsa Sigurdardottir will recognize another of her trademarks – a creepy plot that may have connections to the supernatural.

BUY LINKS: Gallows Rock by Yrsa Sigurdardottir