Cold As Hell by Lilja Sigurðardóttir

From the PR: “Estranged sisters Áróra and Ísafold live in different countries, and are not on speaking terms. When their mother loses contact with Ísafold, Áróra reluctantly returns to Iceland to look for her. But she soon realizes that her sister isn’t avoiding her …she has disappeared, without a 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 drawn 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, to help her track her sister ’s movements, and tail Björn. But she isn’t the only one watching…”

There’s a quote toward the end of Cold As Hell explaining why so many missing people in Iceland are never found, as the country is “so wide and so sparsely populated, much of it not easily accessible, with its cracks in the lava, fissures and river valleys, mountain lakes so cold they never gave up bodies, and the restless sea all around.” It’s small wonder, then, that this chilling, remote country sat atop the world has given us a genre as rich as Icelandic Noir, a genre to which Lilja Sigurðardóttir’s Cold As Hell is a magnificent addition.

Cold As Hell is the first in a five-book series and it’s a mighty fine way to kick it off and get the reader hooked in. Taut, addictive and superbly plotted, Liilja Sigurðardóttir has written a real cracker of a novel here.

There’s a surprising amount going on in Cold As Hell. I say surprising because the narrative tears along at a superb pace with short, punchy chapters across multiple subplots and characters, each carrying just the right amount of hook to keep you charging ahead without ever feeling rushed.

Whether it’s Áróra’s search for her sister, financial crimes or the plight of an asylum seeker, Lilja Sigurðardóttir details every element of her novel with a wonderful prose style and populates it with characters that are vital and compelling.

While it’s clear that a lot of ground is being laid here for a longer story arc than one novel can contain, Cold As Hell is thoroughly satisfying in its own right whilst ensuring there’s plenty for the next instalment to sink its teeth into. I’ll also say that Grimur’s ‘twist’ is beautiful in it’s execution and was a hugely satisfying “oh!” moment that really shifted the plot in a manner that’s rarely so well done.

Cold As Hell is a great read. An intelligent and edgy thriller that makes for a fantastic start to the series – I’m already looking forward to book two. My thanks to Karen at Orenda Books for my copy and to Anne Cater for offering me a review spot on the blog tour.

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