""...an accomplished piece of writing for a first novel." "
This is the story of Agnes Magnusdottir, a young Icelandic woman who, in 1824, is sentenced to death for the murder of her employer and lover. As there are no suitable prisons in Iceland, she awaits execution in the home of District Officer Jon Jonsson and his wife and two daughters. They are horrified at the idea of having a convicted killer in their home and are reluctant to interact with her in any way. Agnes asks for Toti, an assistant priest she has had only fleeting contact with, to be with her at her execution and to provide spiritual comfort.
The fierce winter and the sparse living conditions of the Jonnson family echo the grim reality of Agnes' fate. The story of what actually happened to Agnes is slowly revealed and as it does, she makes her mark with at least some of her gaolers as they come to see the good side of her character.