I received a copy of this book from the publisher.
About The Book
Burned out and traumatised by her horrifying experiences around the world, aid worker Úrsula has returned to Iceland. Unable to settle, she accepts a high-profile government role in which she hopes to make a difference again.
But on her first day in the post, Úrsula promises to help a mother seeking justice for her daughter, who had been raped by a policeman, and life in high office soon becomes much more harrowing than Úrsula could ever have imagined. A homeless man is stalking her – but is he hounding her, or warning her of some danger? And the death of her father in police custody so many years rears its head once again.
As Úrsula is drawn into dirty politics, facing increasingly deadly threats, the lives of her stalker, her bodyguard and even a witch- like cleaning lady intertwine. Small betrayals become large ones, and the stakes are raised ever higher…
Regular readers of my blog will know that I am a huge fan of Icelandic writer Lilja Sigurðardóttir and absolutely loved her Reykjavík Noir series of books comprising of Snare, Trap and Cage. I’ve been impatiently waiting for another slice of her writing and have been spoiled with Betrayal, her latest novel.
This is a standalone novel which is a slight departure from the Reykjavik Noir trilogy which featured a drug runner and examined the impact of financial crime on Iceland. Betrayal isn’t a straight forward crime thriller; there isn’t a detective or police officer investigating a misdeed, instead Sigurðardóttir explores political crime and social injustice.
Úrsula is haunted by her experiences in Africa, battling an Ebola epidemic and her time in Syria helping displaced persons. She and her family have returned from their base in Switzerland to Iceland to live a quieter, more peaceful life. But the memories of watching people endure slow and agonising deaths at the hands of Ebola and the anguish of traumatised victims of the Syrian War are hard to forget. She hasn’t really processed what she has experienced and finds herself unable to form emotional attachments.
When she is offered the role of Minister of the Interior she sees it as an opportunity to keep her mind busy and to do some good. Unfortunately, she doesn’t fully understand the Machiavellian nature of politics and appreciate that a public role puts her in the firing line for all sorts of underhand behaviour.
On her first day she meets with a woman whose daughter has been raped by a police officer, she promises to help her, to bring the man to justice, but she finds that doors are closed to her and the case keeps getting ignored. The job ekes into her personal time, with her weekends being spent working rather than spending time with her family. Then there is the man who keeps turning up at her house and leaving messages on her car – who is he and what does he want?
Set over a few weeks this is a taut, tense and sharply written novel. It’s a short book, coming in at just over 250 pages but boy does it pack a lot in. There are a number of storylines running concurrently which don’t immediately seem to have anything in common but Sigurðardóttir weaves them together seamlessly and elegantly.
This web of deceit shows just how darkness lies just beneath the surface. The betrayal in the title refers to a myriad of things and people; nobody appears to be exempt from crossing a line or boundary, and as Úrsula pulls at the rape case strand she soon realises just how wide this web stretches.
It is a dark and unsettling read, which shines a spotlight on corruption, homelessness, mental illness, PTSD, infidelity and yes, betrayal. It felt quite angry at times – this is a good thing, because we should be angry at the events in this book. Yes they are fictional, but they have their roots in fact and this is one of the biggest reasons why I enjoy Sigurðardóttir’s books so much. They’re not a run of the mill whodunit, they’re thoughtful and considered examinations of the sort of crime committed by those in power. Insidious and harmful, this sort of crime impacts the most vulnerable in society and Betrayal highlights this inequality in devastating fashion.
Wonderfully translated by Quentin Bates, Betrayal is another fabulous offering from Lilja Sigurðardóttir. Compelling and pacy, it is a deliciously dark slice of Icealndic Noir.
About The Author
Icelandic crime-writer Lilja Sigurdardóttir was born in the town of Akranes in 1972 and raised in Mexico, Sweden, Spain and Iceland. An award winning playwright, Lilja has written four crime novels, including Snare, Trap and Cage, making up the Reykjavik Noir trilogy, which have hit bestseller lists worldwide. The film rights have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. She lives in Reykjavík with her partner.
Where You Can Buy It
My thanks to Orenda Books for a copy of the book and Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for an invitation to join the blog tour.