Cold as Hell by Lilja Sigurdardóttir (tr. by Quentin Bates) #BookReview #BlogTour


Icelandic sisters Áróra and Ísafold live in different countries and aren‘t on speaking terms, but when their mother loses contact with Ísafold, Áróra reluctantly returns to Iceland to find her sister. But she soon realizes that her sister isn’t avoiding her … she has disappeared, without trace.

As she confronts Ísafold’s abusive, drug-dealing boyfriend Björn, and begins to probe her sister’s reclusive neighbours – who have their own reasons for staying out of sight – Áróra is led into an ever-darker web of intrigue and manipulation.

Baffled by the conflicting details of her sister’s life, and blinded by the shiveringly bright midnight sun of the Icelandic summer, Áróra enlists the help of police officer Daníel, as she tries to track her sister’s movements, and begins to tail Björn – but she isn’t the only one watching…

Slick, tense, atmospheric and superbly plotted, Cold as Hell marks the start of a riveting, addictive new series from one of Iceland’s bestselling crime writers.

It's such a pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for Cold as Hell today. Many thanks to Lilja Sigurdardóttir, Orenda Books and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

After her superb Reykjavik Noir trilogy and the brilliant standalone political thriller, Betrayal, Lilja Sigurdardóttir returns with the first story in a new series I'm already desperate to read more of. I think Cold as Hell might just be her best book yet and I loved the nod to her previous series (although there is no need to have read that first.)
The chilling prologue sets the scene perfectly for what follows; this isn't high-octane thriller but the slower pace allows for a masterful character study and an atmospheric, tense exploration of what really happens behind closed doors. Áróra and Ísafold might have shared the same upbringing but they have ended up divided by their dual nationalities and while Áróra - lovingly nicknamed the troll by her father - has remained in England, Ísafold - the elf - has always been more drawn to Iceland. The sisters are no longer close so it's a begrudging Áróra who agrees to their mother's plea to discover why Ísafold has seemingly disappeared. 
Áróra is in the intriguing position of belonging and yet still being an outsider in Iceland and it's her observations of the country's customs and quirks which help give the novel its excellent sense of place - praise must be given here to Quentin Bates who as always has provided a seamless translation of the book. She joins forces with Daniel, who her mother describes as her cousin - although the truth isn't quite as straightforward - and the fascinating relationship that develops between the pair sparks with sexual tension. However, she makes life difficult for herself here too but as she learns more about her sister, she perhaps begins to understand more about herself as well and I'm looking forward to seeing how her character evolves as the series progresses. 
Lilja Sigurdardóttir's nuanced understanding of people shines throughout the book; Áróra appears to be a rather ruthless character at times, particularly when she senses the opportunity to expose a financial crime and to make money herself, and yet there's a vulnerability to her too. She isn't the only person keeping things from others however, and the apartment block where Ísafold was last known to be living is teeming with secrets. Readers are always one step ahead of the investigation and there are several scenes which follow a character who clearly knows what happened to Ísafold and who is still watching her former boyfriend, Björn. Meanwhile, in another flat, Olga has her own reasons for fearing the police investigating the block too closely but what is she risking by keeping somebody else's secrets alongside her own? Iceland might be a remote island but it becomes evident that it still has to figure out how to manage issues which affect the global community and as with other countries, the political and the humanitarian don't always align here as they should. 
Lilja Sigurdardóttir weaves a beautifully descriptive, melancholic story of fear, guilt and a need to belong. This is everything Nordic Noir should be; a tense, uncompromising look at hidden lives and dark secrets. I can't give anything away about the ending but it's the perfect way to finish this book while leaving me salivating for more. Bleakly evocative and heartbreakingly insightful; I loved every word.

Cold as Hell is published by Orenda Books ,it is out now in ebook and will be available in paperback from 28th October 2021. It can be purchased or pre-ordered directly from the publisher's website or from, Hive, Waterstones, Kobo and Amazon but please consider supporting independent bookshops 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 five crime novels, including Snare, Trap and Cage, making up the Reykjavik Noir trilogy, and her standalone thriller Betrayal, all of which have hit bestseller lists worldwide. Snare was longlisted for the CWA International Dagger, Cage won Best Icelandic Crime Novel of the Year and was a Guardian Book of the Year, and Betrayal was shortlisted for the prestigious Glass Key Award and won Icelandic Crime Novel of the Year. The film rights for the Reykjavik Noir trilogy have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. She 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. 


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