The small community of Akranes is devastated when a young man dies in a mysterious house fire, and when Detective Elma and her colleagues from West Iceland CID discover the fire was arson, they become embroiled in an increasingly perplexing case involving multiple suspects. What’s more, the dead man’s final online search raises fears that they could be investigating not one murder, but two. A few months before the fire, a young Dutch woman takes a job as an au pair in Iceland, desperate to make a new life for herself after the death of her father. But the seemingly perfect family who employs her turns out to have problems of its own and she soon discovers she is running out of people to turn to. As the police begin to home in on the truth, Elma, already struggling to come to terms with a life-changing event, finds herself in mortal danger as it becomes clear that someone has secrets they’ll do anything to hide…
In the blistering heatwave it was incredibly good to escape to Iceland for the third book in Eva Björg Ægisdóttir’s Forbidden Iceland series. Following The Creak On The Stairs and Girls Who Lie, Detective Elma Jónsdóttir and her colleagues at the West Iceland CID return for another troubling investigation…
The book is a perfect blend of police procedural and psychological thriller, as Elma and her team are involved in two investigations which take some time to be linked with the disturbing connections unveiled between the two, so the book has an easy pace, and a sinister and gradual unfolding of the investigation. The claustrophobic tension of this small neighbourhood was all too tangible, and the secrets and lies that permeate the whole case were slowly revealed as people’s true natures come to the fore. The petty jealousy, the small indications of people not being as innocent as they first appear, and the violent tendencies that lurk beneath the veneer of respectability, adds a frisson to the story that belies its initial linear appearance. There are enough inconsistencies in, and disguising of, people’s true characters to allow the reader to play detective too, which is always satisfying.
At the heart of the book Detective Elma Jónsdóttir consistently proves an interesting and multi-layered character, very reminiscent of Fargo, police chief Marge Gunderson, particularly relevant as to the personal news that Elma experiences in the course of the book. Although she is eminently capable and resourceful in her day job, in true crime fiction style, her personal life is less than straightforward, as she and her partner and police colleague Sævar blunder around in their relationship. Back in her world of work she has an unerring respect from her colleagues, an analytical mind, but like all good detectives those little flashes of inspiration which serve to swerve the investigation on a different course, but will they really apprehend the true perpetrator of the crimes?
This series is gaining a real momentum now as, while becoming more familiar with the central characters, there is a growing confidence in Ægisdóttir’s writing that could easily escalate her to the widespread recognition of fellow Icelandic crime authors Yrsa Sigurðardóttir and Ragnar Jonasson. Once again Victoria Cribb provides an astute and fluid translation. Although perhaps not as dark in tone or feel as some other writers in the Icelandic and Nordic stables, this is a solid police procedural, and think the next book will be exceptionally interesting as Elma looks to be having even more distractions in her life….
Born in Akranes in 1988, Eva moved to Trondheim, Norway to study her MSc in Globalisation when she was 25. After moving back home having completed her MSc, she knew it was time to start working on her novel. Eva has wanted to write books since she was 15 years old, having won a short story contest in Iceland. Eva worked as a stewardess to make ends meet while she wrote her first novel, The Creak on the Stairs. The book went on to win the CWA Debut Dagger, the Blackbird Award, was shortlisted (twice) for the Capital Crime Readers’ Awards, and became a number one bestseller in Iceland. The critically acclaimed Girls Who Lie (book two in the Forbidden Iceland series) soon followed, with Night Shadows (book three) following suit in July 2022. Eva lives with her husband and three children in Reykjavík.
Victoria Cribb is a freelance translator of Icelandic literature. Her translations of Icelandic authors published in English include crime novels by Arnaldur Indriðason, The Blue Fox and From the Mouth of the Whale by Sjón, and Stone Tree by Gyrðir Elíasson. She has an MA in Icelandic and Scandinavian Studies from UCL and a BPhil in Icelandic from the University of Iceland, and lived and worked in Reykjavík for a number of years as a publisher, journalist, and translator. She is currently completing a PhD in Old Icelandic at the University of Cambridge
(With thanks to Orenda Books for the ARC)
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