At once a startling, tense psychological thriller, and a sophisticated and twisty police procedural from a rising star in Icelandic literature
When single mother Maríanna disappears from her home, leaving an apologetic note on the kitchen table, it is assumed 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 tragedy.
Police officer Elma and her colleagues take on the case, which becomes increasingly complex, as the list of suspects grows ever longer and new light is shed on Maríanna’s past – and the childhood of a girl who never was like the others…
I loved the Girl On The Stairs and was very pleased to find myself back in Iceland with Elma as she became embroiled in another very tense investigation.
It was an investigation that shifted between past and present, and Aegisdottir’s decision to intersperse the investigation with the voice of an unknown female narrator was a master stroke. Not only did it make me question who it might be, but gave a brilliant insight into a damaged woman, one marred by an accidental pregnancy, motherhood at a young age. Here was a mother who didn’t really know how to be a mother, who couldn’t find the capacity for that unconditional love we all take for granted. As the child’s age progressed Aegisdottir began to make it abundantly clear that this was no normal mother/daughter relationship, I could sense unease, a sinister element that I couldn’t quite work out.
The present day was no less intriguing, single mother Marianne found dead, daughter Helke finally making a life for herself with foster parents she adored. Did she miss her mother, was she grieving?. At first glance, no, but it was no surprise, as Aegisdottir portayed a fifteen year old who maybe hated her mother, felt lonely, friendless, and perhaps resented her mother for a loveless relationship.
The interplay between the two narratives played to Aegisdottir’s strength, that wonderful skill she possessed that made the reader really think about what they were reading, to question the characters motives, their actions. Elma was strategically placed to be our guide, yet Aeistdottir didn’t forget that she too had her own issues, the suicide of her husband, the difficult relationship with her sister, and her love life which made an appearance.
Her personal life may have been complicated but that didn’t detract from her day job, a job she did so with side kick, Saevar. I loved that there was no brashness, no overconfidence just meticulous attention to detail, intelligence and an ability to think outside the box.
The whole investigation was like a slow burning candle, as Elma dug deeper so the wick burnt down, the perpetrator of Marianne’s murder switched multiple times and the web of lies became more entangled.
Elma was nothing but determined and pedantic, as finally the pieces fell into place, a mad scramble to wind things up, to tie up the loose ends.
What I wasn’t prepared for but in hindsight should have looked for the clues, Aegisdottir’s littered throughout as she turned the tables and an altogether different ending emerged. Chilling and slightly disturbing but an utterly fitting conclusion.
Aegisdottir may have finished the investigation but she gave us a tantalising glance at a happy Elma and anticipation for the next instalment.
I would like to thank Orenda Books for a copy of Girls Who Lie to read and review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
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. It also went on to win the Blackbird Award, a prize set up by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir and Ragnar Jónasson to encourage new Icelandic crime writers. It was published in English by Orenda Books in 2020. Eva lives in Reykjavík with her husband and three children and is currently working on the third book in the Forbidden Iceland series.
Follow her on Twitter @evaaegisdottir