Cold as Hell – Lilja Sigurðardóttir

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… 

I had Cold as Hell in my little stash of books with me on a holiday earlier this year and it kept me company on the beach one long hot day.

Reading about the Icelandic summer and the mysterious goings on between Áróra and Ísafold kept me entranced throughout the day, pausing only to top up on ice-cream and sun cream. That day seems so very long ago now, but the book has stayed with me to these dark winter days.

Áróra is summoned back to Iceland to look for her sister, Ísafold. Their mother has lost contact and is worried. Áróra reluctantly agrees and soon discovers that her sister is missing, and starts to worry that something more sinister is afoot.

I’m a big fan of Lilja Sigurðardóttir’s work, having been introduced to it in the excellent Snare. She has a great knack for character and a lovely way with a twisty plot. The characters in Cold As Hell are fascinating, from the estranged sisters to the slightly odd neighbours, they’ll keep you guessing. And you know that I just love a book with a sense of place, and Cold As Hell’s Iceland jumps off the page and is much a character as any other.

The writing is brisk and pacy, and I whipped through this book, desparate to find out what had happened to Ísafold. It’s beautifully pitched, riveting and superbly atmospheric. Iceland in summer can be a dangerous place.

Highly recommended.

Cold as Hell by Lilja Sigurðardóttir is published by Orenda Books and is out now. Superbly translated by Quentin Bates.

Huge thanks as ever to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for providing an advance copy for me to read on the beach. Apologies that it’s taken me so long to review!

Author: dave

Book reviewer, occasional writer, photographer, coffee-lover, cyclist, spoon carver and stationery geek.

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