Today I’m reviewing a new voice in Icelandic crime fiction, and a book I’ve been wanting to read since I saw the stunning cover for it. Many thanks to Anne Cater and Orenda Books for having me on the tour and sending me a copy of the book to review.
Blurb: When the body of a woman is discovered at a lighthouse in the Icelandic town of Akranes, it soon becomes clear that she’s no stranger to the area.
Chief Investigating Officer Elma, who has returned to Akranes following a failed relationship, and her colleagues Sævar and Hörður, commence an uneasy investigation, which uncovers a shocking secret in the dead woman’s past that continues to reverberate in the present day…
But as Elma and her team make a series of discoveries, they bring to light a host of long-hidden crimes that shake the entire community. Sifting through the rubble of the townspeople’s shattered memories, they have to dodge increasingly serious threats, and find justice … before it ’s too late.
My Review: It’s been a little while since I’ve read any Icelandic crime so I was looking forward to returning to it in this book. There’s something unique about crime from this country and I’m not surprised that there seems to be a growing awareness of it.
This book is the first in a series and it shows in that we only get tantalising hints through the book as to why Elma has moved back to Arkanes and away from the bright lights of Reykjavík, rather than her full backstory straight away. Soon after returning to Arkanes, a body of a woman is found near an old, unused lighthouse. The investigation into this slowly starts to hint at old, buried secrets in the town, ones that some people would perhaps rather kill than have revealed.
During the course of the investigation we are introduced to various characters, and also to Elma and her colleagues. It becomes clear that the Arkanes in the book is a community where if you sneeze, a short time later everyone knows you might be ill. There is an over-riding sense of claustrophobia at some points in the story, when certain characters are involved. There were points at which I just felt really uncomfortable and was very glad when the scene changed and took the story somewhere else.
The one thing I find different about all of the Icelandic crime I have read so far, compared to UK or US crime is the writing style. In this story there are various threads, some which are to do with the past and others which are more in the present. Each of them is explained well and clearly but without stating directly what is going on. A perfect example of showing not telling because from what is written you understand what has happened, or can make an educated guess, and that is all that is needed. There is also so much psychology and human behaviour on show in the story. The reader is shown what the unknown can do over a long period of time, how people react when they feel cornered or threatened and how someone’s behaviour is viewed so differently by two different people.
I liked this book, there is so much that can be built on in the future books with Elma and other recurring characters, but also it gives you a good story that you can be involved in. You get information that the police do not, as there are also flashbacks to the past, so that and watching the investigation unfold means that you can almost play detective without realising it. I also liked the ending, it’s not the ending I expected but it fitted with the story, and the community and sense of secrecy that was prevalent throughout the book. What the ending does do, however, is provide a sense of closure to the book without closing it off completely so we can wonder how Elma’s story will unfold as the series progresses. This book is a strong addition to the Icelandic Noir scene and I look forward to seeing what comes next.
About the author:
Born in Akranes in 1988, Eva moved to Trondheim, Norway to study an 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 book went on to win the Blackbird Award and became an Icelandic bestseller. Eva now lives with her husband and three children in Reykjavík, staying at home with her youngest until she begins Kindergarten.