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Thursday 3 November 2022

‘Red as Blood’ by Lilja Sigurdardóttir

Translated by Quentin Bates.
Published by Orenda Books,
13 October 2022.
ISBN: 978-1-914585-32-6 (PBO)

Present-day Iceland, and businessman Flosi comes home to chaos and a curt note beginning ‘We have your wife, Gudrun.’ The ransom demanded is huge – though it so happens that he has it, in a secret offshore account. Flosi’s accountant persuades him to tell the police – but will his wife be returned safely?

This novel starts with a tremendous hook: an ordinary man’s reactions to finding his wife taken in the middle of preparing their dinner, with langoustines blackening on the worktop and burnt bread in the oven. We feel his distress and fear for her.

Gradually we learn more about his family: the ex-wife’s who’s too eager to come and support him, the daughter who loved her father and hated her stepmother. Then there are the unusual transactions on Gudrun’s account ... was she being blackmailed? 

Áróra, financial detective, is following the trail both of Flosi’s accounts and Gudrun’s and finds they’re more sinister than she expected. At the same time, she has a melancholy mission: to track down her disappeared sister’s body. All the indications are that her violent boyfriend murdered her, and Áróra wants to lay her ghost to rest.

Along with this the police are having problems: team chief Daniel wants to get closer to Áróra, but she’s been cold towards him since he told her the police couldn’t help her to find her sister, and though he sympathises with Flosi, he’s also suspicious of him. Helena, his team-mate, is finding that one-night stands aren’t as simple as you’d think.

The short chapters whizz the story along, moving from one strand to another and from cliff-hanger to unexpected twist – you can’t turn the pages fast enough. The final reveal is surprising, but plausible.

A rollercoaster of an Icelandic PP with great characters and atmosphere. You don’t need to read the first in the Áróra series, Cold as Hell, to enjoy it, but I strongly recommend starting there – it was an excellent read.

Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Lilja Sigurdardóttir  an Icelandic crime-writer 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, with Snare, the first in a new series, hitting bestseller lists worldwide. The film rights have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. Lilja has a background in education and has worked in evaluation and quality control for preschools in recent years. She lives in Reykjavík with her partner.
Twitter @lilja1972

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

 Click on the title to read a review of her recent book
A Shetland Winter Mystery

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