Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!!! Girls Who Lie by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir

Image description: the cover of Girls Who Lie has title, author and pull quote text in black and purple on a white background. Below the text is a grayscale image of a female figure standing on a bridge over a desolate river. In the distance is what appears to be a volcanic mountain.

When single mother Marianna 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 Grabrok 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 Marianna’s past – and the childhood of a girl who never was like the others…

Having read and reviewed Eva Björg Ægisdóttir’s confident and compelling debut The Creak on the Stairs last year, I was keen to read the next instalment in the Forbidden Iceland saga and discover what small town secrets Chief Investigating Officer Elma and her colleagues in Akranes found themselves investigating next. As it turns out, the dust has barely settled on Elma’s first case when the body of a missing woman is found.

Everyone has assumed troubled single mother Marianna had taken her own life but it soon becomes clear from the body that Marianna was the victim of a brutal crime. As Elma and her colleagues Sævar and Hörður investigate, they quickly find themselves embroiled in a dark and twisted saga of abuse and scandal, rooted several decades before.

While A Creak on the Stairs was most definitely Nordic noir, Girls Who Lie adds an additional layer of psychological tension to the gloomy atmosphere of Akranes. Whilst not overtly violent or gory in its tone, it therefore pays to mention trigger warnings for sexual abuse, rape, discussion of false allegations, psychological trauma, child neglect, psychological manipulation, post-natal depression, and suicide. As with its predecessor though, these harrowing topics are handled with sensitivity however and the novel ably interrogates the relationship between personal trauma and wider societal issues.

Getting back into the shoes of Chief Investigating Officer Elma was a delight. Sharp, perceptive, and hard-working, Elma retains all the dogged commitment from The Creak on the Stairs but has, finally, begun to recover from the personal trauma that led to her returning to Akranes. As such, she is a slightly softer character in Girls Who Lie and whilst this doesn’t exactly remove all of her sharp edges, it does allow us to see her work on her relationships with her sister Dagny and colleague Sævar, both subplots that I enjoyed immensely.

As with her previous novel, Eva Björg Ægisdóttir has also brilliantly captured the rhythms and patterns of small town life, from the respectability and comfort of the suburbs, to the grim reality of life on the poverty line. She’s also brilliantly evoked Iceland in all its harsh and wintery glory.

Written with subtly and nuance, Girls Who Lie also provides a compelling psychological portrait of a desperate new mother. In intermittent first-person chapters, we are transported into the mind of a troubled young woman and her daughter. These chapters make for some of the most harrowing in the novel as their unknown narrator grapples with her own complex, conflicting – and occasionally very dark – feelings towards her little girl. Working out who this unknown mother is – and what relationship she and her daughter might have to Marianna’s murder – makes for a compelling addition and, running alongside chapters focusing on the police investigation, makes for plenty of twists and turns before the novel’s end!

As with its predecessor, Girls Who Lie is a chilling, absorbing slow-burn of a book that combines a sophisticated police procedural with a subtle and emotive psychological portrait into a compelling and atmospheric package. Skilfully translated by Victoria Cribb, this is a complex, twisty novel with a compelling central protagonist and it cements the Forbidden Iceland series as amongst the finest of Nordic and Scandinavian noir.

Girls Who Lie by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir (translated by Victoria Cribb) is published by Orenda Books and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 30 July 2021 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Image description: blog tour banner for the Girls Who Lie blog tour showing the book cover (described above), tour dates/stops, and publisher information. Tour dates run from 1-30 July with 2-3 bloggers posting per day. Tour posts can be found and followed using the #GirlsWhoLie, or by following @RandomTTours and @OrendaBooks.

Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!! The Creak on the Stairs by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir

Creak on the Stairs CoverWhen a body of a woman is discovered at a lighthouse in the Icelandic town of Akranes, it soon becomes clear that she’s no stranger to the area.

Chief Investigating Officer Elma, who has returned to Akranes following a failed relationship, and her collegues Sævar and Hörður, commence an uneasy investigation, which uncovers a shocking secret in the dead woman’s past that continues to reverberate in the present day…

But as Elma and her team make a series of discoveries, they bring to light a host of long-hidden crimes that shake the entire community. Sifting through the rubble of the townspeople’s shattered memories, they have to dodge increasingly serious threats, and find justice…before it’s too late.

It’s likely to be a good sign when an author’s debut comes with recommendations from Icelandic noir titans Yrsa Sigurðardóttir and Ragnar Jónasson. And, sure enough, Eva Björg Ægisdóttir’s The Creak on the Stairs is a confident and compelling debut that makes for a strong addition to Orenda Books already excellent crime fiction stable.

Akranes is the sort of town where everyone knows everyone. The sort of place where you are born, you grow up, you marry, and you build a life. With the exception of those who leave to seek their fortunes in the big city of Reykjavík, it’s possible to be part of the same close-knit community for an entire life. So when the half-submerged body of a woman is found near the town’s old lighthouse, it’s almost certain she has a connection to the town. So why does everyone in town pretend to know nothing about Elisabet? And why did the dead woman choose to return to Akranes after so many years? 

Chief Investigating Officer Elma, newly returned to Akranes herself, is tasked with unravelling these mysteries. Elma and her colleague Sævar begin to investigate Elisabet’s childhood, gradually revealing long-hidden secrets that the townspeople of Akranes – including their boss Hörður – would rather be forgotten. What is revealed will shock the sleepy community as Elisabet’s death gradually leads the investigators back to the disappearance of a little girl from the town many years before.

Alternating between the perspective of the young Elisabet and various members of the investigating team and townsfolk in the present day, A Creak on the Stair weaves together a compelling slow-burn narrative that packs a serious of vicious punches in its final pages, as revelation after revelation shakes the foundations of the Akranes community.

Whilst the novel isn’t gory or overtly violent, it doesn’t shy away from darker topics so trigger warnings for drug & alcohol abuse, child neglect, domestic violence, sexual abuse, child pornography, and self-harm. These harrowing topics are handled with sensitivity however and the novel is a testament to the numerous failings in social and community care that, eventually, lead to Elisabet’s murder.

Elma is an excellent lead in this respect. Compassionate but fierce, she is determined to prove the link between Elisabet’s tragic past in Akranes and her unfortunate end. Elma is also a haunted character herself. Having returned to Akranes following a personal tragedy, she is acutely aware of the reasons why someone might want to build life away from the town – and why they might be drawn back to right the wrongs of the past.

I also really warmed to Elmar’s colleague Sævar, as well as to her well-meaning but slightly over-bearing mother. Even those characters with something to hide were well-realised. Elma’s gruff but fair boss Hörður might be protecting old friends – or might just be caught between keeping the peace in a close-knit community and the demands of conducing a thorough investigation into Elisabet’s death. Magna, wife of a prominant local businessman, knows more than she is letting on – but who can blame her for wanting to look to the future instead of living in her past? Everyone, even the unsympathetic characters, felt three-dimensional and, as a result, the small-town community of Akranes came alive on the page.

Intricately plotted with some clever reveals scattered throughout the story to keep the pages turning, The Creak on the Stairs flows effortlessly from first page to last. By the end, you’ll be turning back to the start to see how it was all done, drawing new connections missed on first reading! Fans of Icelandic/Scandi/Nordic noir are sure to be delighted with this latest addition to the genre but The Creak on the Stairs will also appeal to those seeking a pacy and involving police procedural that comes with an added dash of the dark and chilling.

The Creak on the Stairs by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir (translated by Victoria Cribb) is published by Orenda Books and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including the Orenda ebookstore, Hive, Waterstones, and Amazon.

Don’t forget that although your local bookshop might be closed at the moment, you can also support your local indie bookshops by ordering from them online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read Booksellers, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until the end of May 2020 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content! 

FINAL Creak on Stairs BT Poster