Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR REVIEW!!! Night Shadows by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir

Image Description: The cover of Night Shadows features the image of a house on fire. A figure stares at the flames.
Image Description: The cover of Night Shadows features the image of a house on fire. A figure stares at the flames.

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…

Night Shadows is the third book in Eva Björg Ægisdóttir’s excellent ‘Forbidden Iceland’ series, following on from The Creak on the Stairs and Girls Who Lie, and I have to say I think it might be her best yet!

Picking up a few months after the events of Girls Who Lie, Night Shadows sees Detective Elma and her colleagues from West Iceland CID investigating the death of a young man in a house fire. What looks like a tragic accident soon turns into a murder investigation when it becomes apparent that Marinó Finnsson was not killed by the fire. But who would want to murder a seemingly popular young man from the suburbs? And, if the Finnsson family are the only people with keys to the property, how did Marinó end up locked inside a burning building?

A case already filled with questions only gets more complicated when online searches made by Marinó in the days before his death suggest that Elma and her team might be looking at not one murder, but two. As the investigation into Marinó’s death progresses, Elma finds herself tracing the fate of a young Dutch au pair whilst also coming to terms with her own life-changing news.

As with previous entries in the series, Night Shadows works perfectly well as a standalone mystery (although I’d urge new readers to go back and read both The Creak on the Stairs and Girls Who Lie as they’re excellent!), featuring a self-contained investigation. Some developments in the personal lives of Elma, her colleagues Sævar and Hörður, and their respective families do develop over the course of the series – and probably more so in this novel than in previous entries – but significant interpersonal connections and the historical developments in those are explained clearly and concisely, allowing new readers to catch up without bogging down the narrative for readers already familiar with the team at West Iceland CID.

I don’t want to give away any story spoilers but I will say that I really enjoyed Elma’s personal story in Night Shadows. Elma is already one of my favourite detectives – smart, dedicated, and hard-working – but in this novel we see a little more of her home life and some of her vulnerabilities as she confronts a major life change. I also love that we are getting to know her colleagues Sævar and Hörður a little more and, for a returning reader, it was nice to see some returning characters from the rest of Akranes too. Getting an insight into the community is one of my favourite aspects of this series.

That said, the focus of Night Shadows does remain on the police investigation. Alternating between the perspective of the police investigation and that of various people connected with the crime, Eva Björg Ægisdóttir deftly weaves together a number of complex narratives strands into a compelling and page-turning mystery thriller. As in the previous novel in the series, Girls Who Lie, there’s also a chilling and atmospheric psychological thriller element amidst the twists of the police procedural narrative, with occasional flashbacks to events before the fire as well as glimpses into the mind of Marinó’s killer.

Although never gory or overtly violent, Night Shadows doesn’t shy away from touching upon darker themes or difficult topics so content warnings for arson, descriptions of fire/fire injury, infidelity, pregnancy, alcohol/drug use and, of course, murder.

Victoria Cribb’s skilful translation is smooth and effective. The emotions and linguistic inflections of the characters are really well conveyed and I really appreciated the pronunciation guide of names and place that was included at the start of the book. I prefer character names not to be anglicised as part of a translation because it evokes a greater sense of character and place – but I also appreciate getting the pronunciation right, even if that’s only in my head!

As with previous novels in the series, Night Shadows is sure to appeal to existing fans of Icelandic/Scandi/Nordic noir. However, with its taut plotting, attention to detail, and chilling psychological undertones, it’s also the perfect read for fans of police procedurals and psychological thrillers. If you love TV shows such as Broadchurch, Hinterland and Vigil, or books such as Ann Cleve’s Vera Stanhope books or Lin Anderson’s Rhona Macleod series, I’d urge you to venture into Forbidden Iceland and give Eva Björg Ægisdóttir a try!

Night Shadows 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 HiveBookshop.orgWaterstones, and Wordery, as well as direct from the Orenda Books online store.

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 29 July 2022 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!

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!!! Death Deserved by Jørn Lier Horst & Thomas Enger

Death Deserved final jacketOslo, 2018. Former long-distance runner Sonja Nørdstrom never shows at the launch of her controversial autobiography, ‘Always Number One’. When celebrity blogger Emma Ramm visits Nørdstrom’s home later that day, she finds the door unlocked and signs of a struggle inside A bib with the number ‘one’ has been pinned to the TV.

Police officer Alexander Blix is appointed to head up the missing-person investigation, but he still bers the emotional scars of a hostage situation nineteen years earlier, when he killed the father of a five-year-old girl. Traces of Nørdstrom soon show up at different locations, but the appearance of the clues appears to be carefully calculated…evidence of a bigger picture he’s just not seeing…

Blix and Ramm soon join forces, determined to find and stop a merciless killer with a flair for the dramatic, and a thirst for attention.

Trouble is, he’s just got his first taste of it…

I’ve been a big fan of what has been termed ‘Nordic’ or ‘Scandi’ crime fiction ever since Lisbeth Salander first burst onto the scene. Since the phenomenal success of Stieg Larsson’s trilogy, a number of other popular Scandinavian authors have found success in the UK.

Orenda Books have long been leading the charge to introduce more translated crime fiction into the hands of eager UK readers. Having introduced Antti Tuominen and Johana Gustawsson,  Lilja Sigurdardottir and Kjell Ola Dahl to our shores, their latest release brings together not one, but TWO, bestselling Norwegian authors – Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger. Both authors are already acclaimed for their individually-authored detective novels but Death Deserved is the first in a new co-written series and is sure to bring them yet more accolades from Nordic Noir fans!

Introducing readers to two new characters, the celebrity blogger Emma Ramm and the cyncial police detective Alexander Blix, the series gets off to a bang with a sinister kidnapper who appears to be targeting high-profile individuals and playing a sinister game with investigating authorities. Blix and Ramm are soon working together in a race to solve the case, with Ramm using her journalistic contacts and reporter’s ‘nose’ to seek out new leads, while Blix pursues the official lines of enquiry.

I really warmed to both of the lead characters and they compliment each other really well. When I first started reading, I was worried that Blix’s overt cynicism and traumatic past would make him a stereotypical jaded detective – especially when his new, younger, partner Sofia Kovic is introduced – but these tropes are actually subverted really nicely and Blix, whilst maintaining his sharp edges, is revealed to be a warm-hearted and a dedicated detective with an instinctive need to protect the vulnerable and seek out the truth. His personality contrasts really well with Emma’s energetic personality – although Emma herself is revealed to be more complex and uncertain of herself than her bubbly exterior initially suggests. The supporting cast are also really well realised, from Blix’s sycophantic boss Fosse to Emma’s fellow journalists, and there are the beginnings of some interesting personal storylines for both leads.

As for pace, Death Deserved hits the ground running and keeps going to the very last page! The main plot gets off the ground within a few pages and it isn’t long before both Blix and Emma are investigating the apparent abduction of Sonja Nørdstrom.

Unlike some Nordic/Scandi Noir books, Death Deserved is not an overly gruesome or violent lead. Instead the plot nods to the hard-boiled genre, with plenty of action being combined with some perceptive psychological elements including sharp observations about the nature of celebrity culture, as well as commentary on the way in which we consume celebrity news media and make judgement calls about those who we only ever view from afar. The press release bills Death Deserved as having ‘echoes of Criminal Minds‘ and I would say that’s definitely accurate – this is Criminal Minds meets The Killing with a bit of Philip Marlowe thrown in! It’s an electric combination and I raced through the book in a couple of days, drawn in by the alternation between Blix and Emma’s dual investigations, and the revelations being uncovered with every turn of the page!

Death Deserved is a promising first outing in what promises to be another excellent crime series from Orenda Books. With two unique and likeable leads, a rip-roaring pace, and a well written, twisting psychological mystery, it’s certainly a book that will delight fans seeking their next Nordic Noir hit! I, for one, will be keeping eager eyes out for book two in the Blix & Ramm series.

Death Deserved by Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger, translated by Anne Bruce, is published by Orenda Books and is available now from all good booksellers including the Orenda ebook store, Hive, Waterstones, Book Depository, and Amazon.

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 the end of the month so do check out the other stops along the way for more reviews and content. 

Death Deserved BT Poster