The Creak on the Stairs / Girls Who Lie by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir #BookReviews @OrendaBooks

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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 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.

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I read a sampler of The Creak on the Stairs with the first chapters of this novel almost two years ago and I immediately knew this novel was very promising. This sampler stayed on my mind for a very long time so I was super excited when I finally had the full novel in my hands. I haven’t read a lot of nordic crime yet but after reading The Creak on the Stairs I have to conclude that I really don’t know why that is. I have to admit that the Icelandic names needed some getting used to… there’s a pronunciation guide before the first chapter which I thought was very cool and at first I did give it a try to read every name very carefully the way it was pronounced. I gave up on my mission fairly quickly though and even glossed over some long names (Elma’s mother for example) when I started to recognize them by sight; knowing which character was meant was ultimately enough for me.

The Creak on the Stairs is quite unsettling and much more than a simple whodunnit. It is wonderfully complex and there’s a whole history behind the murder which is divulged throughout the story but was only becoming stunningly  clear to me at the very end. And then apart from the present day investigation by Elma, there’s also a narrative starting in 1989 which describes the childhood of the woman who died. It wasn’t cheerful or an easy upbringing, and I felt a pain and sadness while reading these pages. There are a lot more characters that make an appearance which include several members of the same family and their spouses (Ása and Hendrik, their son Bjarni and his wife Magnea, the husband’s brother Tómas and his wife Ásdis) as well as several witnesses who crossed Elísabet’s path in the past and present. All have a story to tell, so it was impossible to know if any of them were connected or relevant to the story (of course they are) but their individual stories kept me enraptured.

Did I tell you that this story was wonderfully complex? It was complex and utterly tragic and Elma was a great character, someone who has it in her to sink her teeth into it and unravel the truth. I’d like to get to know Elma even better but I liked her and I loved the sort of chemistry in the air between her and her colleague Saevar even though neither one of them is really open to it, and Elma still misses David, the man who she was with for 9 years.

The further into the story the more unsettling it reads and the final revelations were quite unexpected. Finally a novel that was able to surprise me… and that’s not all, in the final pages Elma reveals something that caught me completely off guard!

This is the first novel in the ‘Forbidden Island’ series and what a debut it is! A great novel that makes me want to dive into the next one of the series right away! I’m a standalone type of reader but for this series I’m very happy to make the exception!

I received a copy of this novel in the Capital Crime Book Club box. This is my honest opinion.

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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…

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The e-book is out on 22 May, you can pre-order the paperback as it’s publication date is set at 22 July 2021.

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I didn’t think it was possible but the second novel in the series about Elma, the female police inspector in Iceland pleased me even more than the author’s debut. Without a doubt this will probably stay my favorite novel even in the future, when there are many more books in this excellent series. The plot, the characters, the brilliant twists… everything was amazing. 

It takes a little bit of time before the real developments in the investigation of Maríanna’s murder take off but in the meantime I still had a lot to sink my teeth in. The author explored Hekla’s – Maríanne’s daughter – life and throughout the whole novel there are also extracts that start with the shared feelings of how tough life is for a young mother with a newborn who doesn’t have anyone to rely on. Those snippets continued at regular intervals in the novel detailing the strenuous relationship over 15 years, the struggles of a mother with a girl who doesn’t seem to behave like other girls. So many emotions arose inside me, all wanting to come out. At first I was furious with the way she treated her infant but at times I felt just as much compassion, sensing she might have post-natal depression. Was it all it was though, was she actually an evil person, or was it the child who was really different, making her harder to love?

Who murdered Maríanna? You’d almost think her own daughter Hekla had the most to gain because she loved her weekends at her foster parents much more than staying with her own mum, but wasn’t that a little presumptuous? In the course of the novel several characters appear to be a perfect candidate. There’s so much to uncover and it’s wonderful how deeper into the story, I had the feeling Elma and myself were in way over our heads… where was this going to lead?

I thought I knew what was going on, but the author had some very VERY clever red herrings up her sleeve. The story is much more complex than I initially expected and the characters have a fascinating complexity as well. Eva Björg AEgisdottir twists and turns the story quite literally until you hardly know which way to go… I loved how everything changed by the end and I was SO surprised yet again!

This book and this entire series is absolutely brilliant so far. I highly recommend the series to all readers who set the bar high and who are often let down by the simplicity of other novels because this is anything but! I have become a big fan over the course of these two books and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for Elma!

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher, Orenda Books, for review. This is my honest opinion.

 

13 thoughts on “The Creak on the Stairs / Girls Who Lie by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir #BookReviews @OrendaBooks

  1. Great reviews, Inge! I used to read a lot of Nordic crime, but after I moved to UK, I more or less stopped. This sounds like a brilliant series and I hope the author can continue to live up to the quality of the first two books. I might look into it as well, next time a need a dose of crime fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much Stargazer! I have high expectations for the next novel to wow me again, but unfortunately I’ll have to wait a while though before I know. I wonder if she’ll live up to your standards too but I have high hopes there too! Thank you Stargazer!

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  2. Sounds like we all need to give this author our attention, after such high praise. Definitely going to check both of these and the author out. Thanks for two excellent reviews, Inge!

    Liked by 1 person

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