During Iceland Noir festival in November 2018 Eva Björg Ægisdóttir was one of the new authors introduced by Quentin Bates at the New Icelandic Noir panel, together with Robert Marvin, Kristján Atli Ragnarsson and Simon Cox. Apologies for the quality of my photo but it was dark and mysterious, and the shadowy atmosphere mirrored the themes perfectly.
Fast forward to 2021 and Eva Björg Ægisdóttir’s Forbidden Iceland series is in full swing, and by that I mean the first two books have been translated into English by Victoria Cribb and published by Orenda Books. Her debut The Creak on the Stairs won the Crime Writers’ Association John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger, strengthening her position as brilliant and exciting new voice in the Icelandic crime fiction. The second book, Girls Who Lie, followed as a much more confident sophisticated story of murder and assumptions, perceptions and expectations within tight communities. Both novels are cleverly constructed slow-burning police procedurals which take on the concepts of truth and existence in small towns. And locations that leave traces for ever and remain in people’s bloodstream.
What Ægisdóttir does so elegantly is the subtle understated yet extremely powerful psychological analysis of the main and secondary characters, while at the same time she fills the narration with unsettling details, creating absorbing and chilling stories, reflecting some ordinary yet universal truths. Elma, the emotionally wounded core character in the novels, becomes fully alive and vividly present in the moral dilemmas of people she comes in contact with. The contrast between doggedly mundane yet tenacious police work and the superb twists which are so reluctant to come to the surface, makes a huge impression. And thus, increases the level of tension. Another element of her writing that captures the imagination and resonates with the readers is the landscape of and around Akranes on the west coast of Iceland, a place that is close enough to the big noise of the capital Reykjavik, yet distant enough for its inhabitants to feel isolated or disconnected, or hidden if they want.
Here are some photos of Akranes’ old and new lighthouses with the appropriate background of wind, rain and dark moody wintery clouds.
The Creak on the Stairs
When 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 colleagues 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.
Girls Who Lie
When single mother Maríanna 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 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 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 Maríanna’s past – and the childhood of a girl who never was like the others.
Iceland Noir (Iceland Noir on twitter) crime fiction festival in Reykjavik is being planned and organised right now. Tickets are on sale, and let’s hope it can happen this year Iceland Noir 2021 – tickets