July 9th, 2021 by Jane Turner
This review of Girls Who Lie by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir comes courtesy of a Blog Tour organised by Random Things. Girls Who Lie is currently available in ebook, with the paperback published on 22 July 2021 by Orenda Books. I received a free copy of the ebook.
When single mother Maríanna disappears from her home, leaving an apologetic note on the kitchen table, it is assumed that she’s taken her own life – until her body is found on the Grábrók lava fields seven months later, clearly the victim of murder. Her neglected fifteen-year-old daughter Hekla has been placed in foster care, but is her perfect new life hiding something sinister?
Fifteen years earlier, a desperate new mother lies in a maternity ward, unable to look at her own child, the start of an odd and broken relationship that leads to tragedy.
Police officer Elma and her colleagues take on the case, which becomes increasingly complex, as the list of suspects grows ever longer and new light is shed on Maríanna’s past – and the childhood of a girl who never was like the others…
Iceland is a place that’s intrigued me since I first heard the amazing music of The Sugarcubes and Björk in the early 1990’s. In my mind, it’s always seemed a touch monochromatic – a land of lava fields and snow – and the cover art captures my imaginings perfectly.
My first thought on delving in, though, is that this Icelandi-noir (and Ms Ægisdóttir in particular) rates as highly as my favourite Scandi-noir authors. This is a really good story.
Capturing me from the start, I was intrigued, could relate, was shocked and bewildered – and I was totally absorbed. (And my assumptions of the killer’s identity were way, WAY off!)
Girls Who Lie is set in the town of Akranes, which Wikipedia tells me has a population of around 7,500, is 20kms north of Reykjavik and linked to the capital by a 5.5km underwater tunnel. It seems like the perfect town for adults, slow-moving and relatively peaceful. Relaxed. What sets it apart, though, is its proximity to the Icelandic lava fields. The lava fields have a mystery of their own, reinforced by folklore, and it’s easy to imagine a body there.
The second in Ms Ægisdóttir’s Forbidden Iceland series, Girls Who Lie concentrates on Elma and her team, starting from when they get notification of the body. But Elma’s tale is interspersed with diary entries, and it all gels together beautifully. (No more about the diary entries. They are excellent, relatable and insightful, but it’s too hard to avoid spoilers.) The characterisations are brilliant, the language excellent, and I’m left wanting to meet Elma.
Flicking from disappointing lead to disappointing lead, it’s not until the last third of the book that Elma and her team make the connection that leads them to the killer. That last section had me in complete thrall.
All credit to Ms Ægisdóttir and her translator, Victoria Cribb, for creating this thoroughly excellent tale, and providing the brilliant pronunciation guide!
Scandi-noir fans should be trying Icelandi-noir, and Girls Who Lie is an excellent place to start.
Born in Akranes in 1988, Eva Björg Ægisdóttir studied for an MSc in Globalisation in Norway before returning to Iceland and deciding to write a novel – something she had wanted to do since she won a short-story competition at the age of fifteen. After nine months combining her writing with work as a stewardess and caring for her children, Eva finished The Creak on the Stairs. It was published in 2018, became a bestseller in Iceland, and also went on to win the Blackbird Award, a prize set up by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir and Ragnar Jónasson to encourage new Icelandic crime writers. The Creak on the Stairs was published in English by Orenda Books in 2020.
Eva lives in Reykjavík with her husband and three children and is currently working on the third book in the Forbidden Iceland series.
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