Iceland continues to assert itself as the source of some of the strongest crime fiction being written today. Last year, Eva Björg Ægisdóttir released her award-winning debut novel, The Creak on the Stairs, during a worldwide pandemic and yet readers still discovered it and were blown away by the strength of this first novel. The second book in the Forbidden Iceland series, Girls Who Lie, is now making its way out into the world, proving that Ægisdóttir’s initial success was no mistake – she is a first-class writer able to capture her audience with authentic ambiance, realistically-flawed characters, complex plotlines, and unforgettable resolutions.
As with The Creak in the Stairs, the protagonist of Girls Who Lie is Elma, Chief Investigating Officer for the Akranes, Iceland police department. But as with that earlier novel, readers get to know not only Elma and Elma’s partner, Sævar, but also others around the police station and villages. In addition to this, Ægisdóttir does an excellent job of fleshing out each of the characters involved in the case being investigated, despite Elma’s perspective being the dominant voice throughout the novel. Other characters are given some moments to take center stage and, in particular, there are a series of un-dated vignettes which tell the story of a mother and daughter from when the baby was two-months old until ten-years-old. This is a storytelling technique Ægisdóttir employed in her debut novel as well – readers do not exactly know how these vignettes connect to the main storyline, but as the novel progresses things start to fall into place, allowing the reader to stay just a hair’s breadth ahead of Elma and her team.
The central case that Elma is investigating is the death of Maríanna who vanished from her home and whose body was recently discovered among the local lava fields. The assumption was that Maríanna had left of her own accord, but now it appears it was the result of murder. Wanting to find answers for Hekla, Maríanna’s fifteen-year-old daughter, Elma never expects to encounter roadblocks around every new turn in the investigation. Part of Hekla’s story is not meshing with the evidence, and Elma feels that the key to this case lies in figuring out exactly what happened the afternoon Maríanna first went missing.
Meanwhile, Elma’s personal life is also a shambles: Her sister wants help planning a celebration Elma would rather not be involved with, and Elma now has two very different men wooing her for a date and no idea which to choose. Readers who found Elma a bit prickly in the first novel will see some growth in her character here and maybe just a hint that she could have a brighter future if she would just get out of her own way.
There is something about Eva Björg Ægisdóttir’s writing style that is hypnotizing. Readers fall under her spell and follow along, unaware of the passage of time around them, only focused on the danger that lurks in these isolated coastal communities, and longing for justice to be achieved. This is a complex mystery with many angles of investigation, but even when things get the most twisted, there is never any confusion and always the sense that Ægisdóttir will bring this to a satisfying conclusion.
There is no telling what type of case Elma is going to get tangled up in next time, but it’s clear that fans of this series will be waiting with anxious anticipation for the day Eva Björg Ægisdóttir’s next book is announced.
(Kudos once again must go to Victoria Cribb for another beautiful translation.)
I am off to Iceland in November for Iceland Noir and I can’t wait! We’ll be staying in both Borgarnes – which plays a big role in Girls Who Lie – and Reykjavik.
BUY LINKS: Girls Who Lie by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.