Today it is my absolute pleasure to share my thoughts on Girls Who Lie, book two in. the Forbidden Iceland series by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir. I really enjoyed the first in the series and getting to know Elma and Sævar so have been really looking forward to seeing what was in store for them this time around. My thanks to Orenda Books who provided the advance copy for review. Here’s what the book is all about:
About the Book
When a depressed, alcoholic single mother disappears, everything suggests suicide, but when her body is found, Icelandic Detective Elma and her team are thrust into a perplexing, chilling investigation.
When single mother Maríanna disappears from her home, leaving an apologetic note on the kitchen table, everyone assumes 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 a shocking tragedy.
Police officer Elma and her colleagues take on the case, which becomes increasingly complex, as the number of suspects grows and new light is shed on Maríanna’s past – and the childhood of a girl who never was like the others…
Breathtakingly chilling and tantalisingly twisty, Girls Who Lie is at once a startling, tense psychological thriller and a sophisticated police procedural, marking Eva Björg Ægisdottir as one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.
Let’s get the simple bit out of the way now – I loved this book. From the characters that the author creates to the sense of mystery and uncertainty that runs throughout the novel, it has everything I look for in a book and kept me hooked from the start to the very final pages. With a missing persons case becoming a murder investigation, all hampered by the passage of time, be prepared for intrigue, uncertainty and deception, all told in the Eva Björg Ægisdóttir’s beautifully descriptive style.
I’ve loved getting to know Elma over the course of the two books, this second story offering us more insight into her family life and her childhood, especially her ‘rivalry’ with her sister, as well as showing how great a Detective she is, what instincts she has for the duplicitous nature of the case’s suspects. And duplicitous they are, as we find out over the course of the investigation. Told in a similar style to the previous book, The Creak On The Stairs, the book moves back and forth between past and present, slowly building the reader’s understanding of what has happened and, potentially, why by allowing us insight into one of the character’s pasts. The narrative focus in the scenes from the past follows a single character point of view, giving us a real insight into their personality, without giving away too much that it will spoil our enjoyment of the story. The scenes compliment the main investigation, and the gradual reveal ensure that the tension is kept tight and the mystery maintained to the end.
The characterisations are well developed and explored as always, the many different personalities ensuring that we have plenty of suspects when it comes to who might have wanted to murder the victim, Marianna, and to hide her body in such an out of the way location. From the well meaning, but sometimes overinvolved foster parents of the victim’s daughter, to the victim’s neighbours, and even the daughter herself, it really does feel as though any of them could have motive and any could be guilty. Add into this the well paired team of Elma and her fellow detective, Sævar, and I was left with a cast of characters who really kept me invested in the story. Elma is a brilliant character, complex, slightly damaged, but coming out of her melancholy more, and then chemistry between her and Sævar is as strong as ever, even if neither really knows where they stand. It makes for a tantalizing story.
This book really does go some way to exploring the human psyche, examining the motives and actions of one of the characters and the difficulty they have in establishing relationships, be it with family or with others. Which drove me to wonder if this was someone who was just damaged by her past or a straight up sociopath. The clues are all there, but carefully disguised meaning that the final reveal when it comes, the who and what, really hits home in style. I love the way in which the author has also explored the complexities of teenage years, of navigating friendships, attractions and the feeling of isolation that can come from being perceived to be a little different, especially at school.
With dramatic settings and an ever growing tension, this is a fabulous murder mystery where nothing is quite what it appears. Definitely recommended.
About the Author
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, and became a bestseller in Iceland, going 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, and became a number-one bestseller in ebook in three countries, and shortlisted for the Capital Crime/Amazon Publishing Awards in two categories. Girls Who Lie, the second book in the Forbidden Iceland series, is published in 2021. Dubbed the ‘Icelandic Ruth Rendell’ by the British press, 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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