Source: Review copy
Publication: 14 May 2020 from Orenda Books
When a body of a woman is discovered at a lighthouse in the Icelandic town of Akranes, it soon becomes clear that she’s no stranger to the area.
Chief Investigating Officer Elma, who has returned to Akranes following a failed relationship, and her collegues Sævar and Hörður, commence an uneasy investigation, which uncovers a shocking secret in the dead woman’s past that continues to reverberate in the present day …
But as Elma and her team make a series of discoveries, they bring to light a host of long-hidden crimes that shake the entire community. Sifting through the rubble of the townspeople’s shattered memories, they have to dodge increasingly serious threats, and find justice … before it’s too late.
It is an absolute privilege to be starting the blog tour for the very exciting addition to the fabulous group of authors that is #TeamOrenda. Icelandic author Eva Björg Ægisdóttir follows in the tradition already set by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Lilja Sigurðardóttir and Ragnar Jónasson of stunning writers coming from this small island.
The Creak on the Stairs uses the wonderful small town Icelandic backdrop to maximum effect. Akranes is a fishing town but small enough that everyone pretty much knows each other, understands their parentage and who they went to school with. It’s a place where everyone certainly knows the business of everyone else and is not afraid to speculate further about it.
One of the features of Akranes is the concrete lighthouse (No 2 of 20 things to do in Akranes) and it is here that a woman’s dead body is found. CID Officer Elma has just returned to Akranes from Reykjavik CID after the end of her relationship. She’s not expecting an exciting life; in reality she’s come home to lick her wounds for a while.
In this atmospheric and intimate setting Ægisdóttir creates a chilling mystery with some horrible crimes at the centre. From the opening paragraphs you can feel the creepy, chilling experience that of our first character and you know you are in for a heck of a ride.
What marks this book out though is the compassion and understanding that Ægisdóttir displays for all the victims. The murdered woman is Elisabet and a dual timeline enables us to experience some of what she suffered, without the need for graphic detail, but utilising a child’s feelings and understandings to show us, through her thoughts, just what was occurring.
This dual timeline is very well managed and we are able to feel very keenly the hurt and the fury that follows from some very tough and harrowing experiences, made worse by the fact that mostly they are experienced by children.
Elma knows she has to understand Elisabet’s background to establish why she has been murdered and she is tenacious in doing so even as she finds that working in such a small place means that she will have to tread on some quite large toes if she is to get to the truth; even though that’s something her boss is reluctant to do.
As Elma focuses on Elisabet’s childhood the reader starts to understand the real trauma of her life – which is well handled without being graphic or gratuitous. The level of characterisation allows us to move along with the well-paced plot and speculate for ourselves on who the guilty party/parties might be. But Ægisdóttir has moulded her story so well that she is able to be fleet of foot and surprise us with a series of deftly placed twists that add both to the suspense and to our enjoyment.
The Creak on the Stairs does an excellent job of introducing the key characters to the reader and that’s incredibly important because they are the people who will sustain future books. There’s still a great deal to learn about Elma on a personal as well as a professional level, though I like her already. I want to read more about her and her Police colleagues and this book has whetted my appetite.
Verdict: Chilling, atmospheric, well-paced and tautly plotted, The Creak on the Stairs builds tension superbly by delving into small town secrets. Intricately layered it’s slow reveal leads to a surprising and beautifully played climax.
Born in Akranes in 1988, Eva moved to Trondheim, Norway to study my MSc in Globalisation when she was 25. After moving back home having completed her MSc, she knew it was time to start working on her novel. Eva has wanted to write books since she was 15 years old, having won a short story contest in Iceland.
Eva worked as a stewardess to make ends meet while she wrote her first novel. The book went on to win the Blackbird Award and became an Icelandic bestseller. Eva now lives with her husband and three children in Reykjavík, staying at home with her youngest until she begins Kindergarten.