Source: Review copy
Publication: 21 July 2022 from Orenda Books
My thanks to Orenda Books for an advance copy for review
The small community of Akranes is devastated when a young man dies in a mysterious house fire, and when Detective Elma and her colleagues from West Iceland CID discover the fire was arson, they become embroiled in an increasingly perplexing case involving multiple suspects. What’s more, the dead man’s final online search raises fears that they could be investigating not one murder, but two.
A few months before the fire, a young Dutch woman takes a job as an au pair in Iceland, desperate to make a new life for herself after the death of her father. But the seemingly perfect family who employs her turns out to have problems of its own and she soon discovers she is running out of people to turn to.
As the police begin to home in on the truth, Elma, already struggling to come to terms with a life-changing event, finds herself in mortal danger as it becomes clear that someone has secrets they’ll do anything to hide…
I really feel I’m getting to know Akranes now. Eva Björg Ægisdóttir does such a great job of describing the landscape, the housing and the general atmosphere that I can picture it in my mind’s eye. It’s a small town but growing every year as housing is built around the periphery and the place starts a mission creep as the population grows. That sense of place is vital to understanding life in this small but growing community. Everyone thinks they know everyone else, but behind the doors of these unassuming placid white houses with their sloping roofs, there are untold family dramas and many secrets.
Elma too is becoming better known and with the knowledge of how she reacts in different circumstances comes an understanding of a police officer who is solid, intuitive but also a bit too inclined to act spontaneously, without regard to her colleagues or those who care about her.
In Night Shadows Eva Bjorg again weaves her magic with a cast of close knit characters who each who leaps off the page fully formed. These are people you can understand with ordinary hopes and ambitions. Some are people who make the wrong decisions in a moment and watch it all fall apart. Others are flawed and unwilling to change.
It is from the understanding of how much some individuals are willing to transgress for their own reasons that the really chilling moments arrive.
Eva Bjorg Aegisdottir is a wickedly and rather beautifully manipulative writer. As a reader, you think you understand exactly what trajectory the plot is following, but that’s just a device designed to feed your complacency until you can be shocked out of it. Making the best possible use of the snowy, chilling setting, the reader is soon immersed in an intense and beautifully written murder mystery that goes in unexpected directions.
Night Shadows is deliciously unpredictable and the reader’s expectations are confounded with every twist and turn. Holding it all together is our central duo, Elma and Sævar. Partners in the Akranes Police Force and with a friendship that has been rapidly developing through this Forbidden Iceland series, their relationship is one that makes me happy for all that it has some bumps along the way.
In fact the whole relationship that Elma has with her family is contrasted with some of the other family relationships in Night Shadows and that theme of family and how far you’d go to protect yours is one that rings through this dark and emotive novel.
Victoria Cribb’s translation is perfectly pitched to reflect the creeping tension and depth of intensity in a book where the denouement is the climax of a sometimes uncomfortable and undeniably twisty book where nothing is quite what it seems to be.
Verdict: Night Shadows is beautifully written, fabulously plotted and has such well-formed characters that it is easy to feel you know them and can understand their motivation – even when you are wrong! This series goes from strength to strength and Eva Bjorg Aegisdottir is a writer whose books have become unmissable.
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 Creak on the Stairs. The book went on to win the CWA Debut
Dagger, the Blackbird Award, was shortlisted (twice) for the Capital Crime
Readers’ Awards, and became a number one bestseller in Iceland. The
critically acclaimed Girls Who Lie (book two in the Forbidden Iceland
series) soon followed, with Night Shadows (book three) following suit in
July 2022. Eva lives with her husband and three children in Reykjavík.