Betrayal by Lilja Sigurdardóttir (tr. by Quentin Bates) #BookReview #BlogTour



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 why has the death of her father in police custody so many years earlier reared its head 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…

Exploring the harsh worlds of politics, police corruption and misogyny, Betrayal is a relevant, powerful, fast-paced thriller that feels just a little bit too real…

I'm thrilled to be hosting the blog tour for Betrayal today. Many thanks to Lilja Sigurdardottir, Orenda Books and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

Having thoroughly enjoyed Lilja Sigurdardóttir's Reykjavik Noir trilogy, I was looking forward to reading what came next for her. Many of the elements that made her previous books so memorable - the intense, complex writing and her nuanced character development are again present here and Betrayal is a fresh, addictive standalone political thriller.
When Úrsula accepts the position as interior minister she naively believes she will be able to make a difference but although the political system in Iceland may be largely unknown to English readers, the scheming and the seductive corruption of power is only too familiar. Úrsula's previous role as an aid worker means she seems to be an unlikely figure to enter politics but as the book progresses her reasons becomes more clear. It's quickly obvious that her personal life, particularly her relationship with her husband and children is suffering as a result of her experiences in Liberia and Syria and so it's evident that as well as wanting to do something positive for immigrants in Iceland, she is also seeking a distraction from her own problems.  
As with many other politicians and high-profile figures, Úrsula soon has a stalker but the chapters which follow him seem to suggest that there is more to his story than his just being a crazed follower and that his intentions aren't actually malevolent at all. Nevertheless, the steps taken to protect her in the light of his presence and because of other threats she receives reflect the reality for many politicians, especially for women who are regularly abused online and in real life and whose appointments are often questioned with snide insinuations as to what they did to achieve their position. 
The pacy narrative zips between characters and though each are linked in some way to Úrsula, the intricate plotting means just how everything is woven together isn't revealed until late in the book. All of the storylines are absolutely compelling, including the aforementioned homeless stalker and the woman whose policeman husband has been accused of rape but it's probably Stella who made the biggest impression on me. I adored Stella who, like Úrsula, really underlines just how good Lilja Sigurdardóttir is at creating interesting, flawed characters. She allows her characters to behave badly and yet still we sympathise with them and become drawn into their troubled lives. Stella is frequently selfish but the glimpses into her problematic, violent childhood and the suppositions she faces as a black woman in Iceland help to explain why she has constructed barriers around herself. We see the softer, younger side of her when she advises Gréta how to attract more women on Tinder and though obviously looking out for herself, she also genuinely wants to help the older woman. Stella may also be a witch and I loved the atmospheric inclusion of some of Iceland's rich folkloric tradition, which never detracts from main plot but which allows for a fascinating juxtaposition between the old Icelandic beliefs which still persist among some people and the modern, progressive country it is today.  
There isn't really any graphic violence on the page but Betrayal is still a constantly unsettling reflection of the darker side of modern life. Though set over just a few days, Lilja Sigurdardóttir's strikingly feminist thriller candidly explores how both those in politics and the public can be manipulated to behave as those who hold power wish. Úrsula's difficulties in confronting both the issues she exposes in her job and the long-lasting mental consequences of her aid work echo the experiences of women who need to be seen to be almost perfect lest the often misogynistic judgement they are exposed to finds them lacking and thus somehow deserving of the worst sort of abuse.  I loved every word of Betrayal and so must also thank Quentin Bates once more for his seamless translation. Tense and uncompromising, this is a stunning character study which examines what it is to betray and to be betrayed but which also recognises that redemption is always possible. Very highly recommended.

Betrayal is published by Orenda Books, purchasing links can be found here but please support independent bookstores whenever possible.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

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, with Snare, the first in the Reykjavik Noir series, hitting bestseller lists worldwide. Trap was published in 2018, and a Book of the Year in Guardian. The film rights for the series have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. Lilja lives in Reykjavík with her partner.

About the Translator
Quentin Bates escaped English suburbia as a teenager, jumping at the chance of a gap year working in Iceland. For a variety of reasons, the gap year stretched to a gap decade, during which time he went native in the north of Iceland, acquiring a new language a new profession as a seaman and a family, before decamping en masse for England. He worked as a truck driver, teacher, netmaker and trawlerman at various times before falling into journalism, largely by accident. He is the author of a series of crime novels set in present-day Iceland (Frozen Out, Cold Steal, Chilled to the Bone, Winterlude, Cold Comfort and Thin Ice which have been published worldwide. He has translated all of Ragnar Jónasson’s Dark Iceland series. 


Post a Comment