With rights sold in 14 countries, Cold as Hell is the first in the riveting, atmospheric and beautifully plotted five-book series. An Áróra Investigation, from one of Iceland’s bestselling crime writers.
Estranged sisters Áróra and Ísafold live in different countries, and are not on speaking terms. When their mother loses contact with Ísafold, Áróra reluctantly returns to Iceland to look for her. But she soon realises that her sister isn’t avoiding her … she has disappeared, without a trace.
As she confronts Ísafold’s abusive, drug-dealing boyfriend Björn, and begins to probe her sister’s reclusive neighbours – who have their own reasons for staying out of sight – Áróra is drawn into an ever-darker web of intrigue and manipulation.
Baffled by the conflicting details of her sister ’s life, and blinded by the shiveringly bright midnight sun of the Icelandic summer, Áróra enlists the help of police officer Daníel, to help her track her sister ’s movements, and tail Björn. But she isn’t the only one watching.
It took me a while to work out who was who and what was what, but once I did, I loved every moment. We have quite a cast of characters, so it’s not really surprising.
Our main protagonist is half English/ half Icelandic Áróra, tall, statuesque, the troll (as her father called her) to her older, elfin sister Ísafold. Now I have to admit that I wouldn’t really like to be called a troll – I imagine being 12 feet tall with a hairy body and everyone screaming Wingardium Leviosa whenever I came near them (apologies to anyone who hasn’t read Harry Potter).
Ísafold has disappeared, worrying because her abusive, drug peddling boyfriend Björn has previously beaten her so badly she’s ended up in hospital on more than one occasion. Áróra doesn’t live in Iceland – she lives in England and so does their English mother, who is becoming increasingly worried. Áróra and her sister are not on speaking terms because of Ísafold’s relationship with Björn.
However, her mum insists that Áróra travels to Iceland to find her sister and so the mystery begins to unfold. The first thing she does is visit the other residents of the apartment where Ísafold lives and this is where it gets really interesting. First we have Grímur, a strange man who has a phobia about all bodily hair (possibly Chaetophobia) and shaves from head to foot every day, sometimes two or three times until his body is red raw. I still have no idea why, but maybe we’ll find out in the next book. Then there’s Olga who is housing an illegal immigrant called Omar, and of course Björn.
Áróra enlists the help of police officer Daníel, who is supposed to be her uncle but actually isn’t – the book can explain. He lives in an apartment with a garden, which he tends to lovingly, but there is one patch of weeds he can’t get rid of. His neighbour, who happens to be a drag queen called Lady Gugulu, says it’s because elves live there. It’s these touches of the sublime to the ridiculous that make me love this book so much. And I do also have a bit of a crush on Daniel – I hope I’m not proved wrong in the future.
And if all this isn’t enough we have a side plot in which Áróra uses her skills as a financial investigator, but I’m not even going to try to explain. Just read the book. It’s brilliant. I can’t wait for book two.
Many thanks to @annecater for inviting me to be part of #RandomThingsTours.
About the Author
Icelandic crime-writer Lilja Sigurðardóttir was born in the town of Akranes in 1972 and raised in Mexico, Sweden, Spain and Iceland. An award-winning playwright, Lilja has written four crime novels, with Snare, her English debut shortlisting for the CWA International Dagger and hitting bestseller lists worldwide. Trap soon followed suit, with the third in the trilogy Cage winning the Best Icelandic Crime Novel of the Year, and was a Guardian Book of the Year. Lilja’s standalone Betrayal, was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award for Best Nordic Crime Novel. The film rights have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. Lilja is also an award-winning screenwriter in her native Iceland. She lives in Reykjavík with her partner.
Orenda Books is a small independent publishing company specialising in literary fiction with a heavy emphasis on crime/thrillers, and approximately half the list in translation. They’ve been twice shortlisted for the Nick Robinson Best Newcomer Award at the IPG awards, and publisher and owner Karen Sullivan was a Bookseller Rising Star in 2016. In 2018, they were awarded a prestigious Creative Europe grant for their translated books programme. Three authors, including Agnes Ravatn, Matt Wesolowski and Amanda Jennings have been WHSmith Fresh Talent picks, and Ravatn’s The Bird Tribunal was shortlisted for the Dublin Literary Award, won an English PEN Translation Award, and adapted for BBC Radio Four ’s Book at Bedtime. Six titles have been short- or long-listed for the CWA Daggers. Launched in 2014 with a mission to bring more international literature to the UK market, Orenda Books publishes a host of debuts, many of which have gone on to sell millions worldwide, and looks for fresh, exciting new voices that push the genre in new directions. Bestselling authors include Ragnar Jonasson, Antti Tuomainen, Gunnar Staalesen, Michael J. Malone, Kjell Ola Dahl, Louise Beech, Johana Gustawsson, Lilja Sigurðardóttir and Sarah Stovell.