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…
I’ve said many times that Scandi Noir is different to our crime books – ‘there’s something that makes it different from our own crime novels and police procedurals. It’s stripped back, realistic, never shies away from anything.‘ However, Eva Bjorg AEgisdottir’s books are a bit different and this is the third one I’ve read. The main character is Detective Elma, who we met in the other two books A Creak On The Stairs and Girls Who Lie, plus her colleagues from West Iceland CID, her sister Dagny and her mother – we don’t see her father as much.
In the last book Elma was in a relationship with one of her colleagues Sævar, and this is still continuing in Night Shadows. Her boss Hordur, lost his wife Gigja at the end of Girls Who Lie, but is back to lead the current investigation.
So on to the main story. A young man called Marino has died in suspicious circumstances in a fire, which turns out to be arson. Elma and her team begin to investigate and soon realise that this case is far more complicated than it seems at first. The victim had a number of friends, all of whom appear to know nothing about what happened that night. But someone does, because someone poured petrol on the floor and set light to it.
A few months earlier, 19-year-old Lise from Amsterdam took a job as an au pair with a family whose son Andri was friends with Marino. She was hired to look after Klara and Anna, the two younger siblings. But the family have secrets of their own, particularly the father, Unnar, who leads a double life and is rumoured to have love affairs all over Iceland.
I’m not going to go into more detail about the plot as it’s far too complicated, suffice to say that there are a number of interwoven relationships and some not very nice people involved. It’s beautifully written and perfectly translated by Victoria Cribb. It’s quite a slow burn so don’t expect the usual concoction of grisly murders, sex trafficking, drugs and ritualistic killings that you often get with Scandi Noir. But don’t be put off! This is the story of a seemingly ordinary family whose darker side is bubbling under the surface, waiting for its secrets to rise to the fore. It’s also a fascinating look at a country which appears so innocent to an outsider, but obviously has hidden depths waiting to erupt like its famous volcano in a cloud of fire and ash.
Many thanks to @annecater for inviting me to be part of #RandomThingsTours
About the Author
Born in Akranes in 1988, Eva moved to Trondheim, Norway to study my 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.
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.