Harm by Sólveig Pálsdóttir  trs Quentin Bates  @solveigpals @graskeggur @CorylusB

Source: Review copy
Publication: 15 September 2022 from Corylus Books
PP: 240
ISBN-13: ‎ 978-1916379787

My thanks to Corylus Books for an advance copy for review

When wealthy doctor Ríkarður Magnússon goes to sleep in his luxurious caravan and doesn’t wake up, detectives Guðgeir Fransson and Elsa Guðrún are called to the Westman Islands to investigate what looks like murder.

Suspicion immediately falls on Ríkharður’s young, beautiful and deeply troubled girlfriend – but there are no easy answers in this case as they are drawn into family feuds, disgruntled friends and colleagues, and the presence of a group of fitness-obsessed over-achievers with secrets of their own.

As their investigation makes progress, Guðgeir and Elsa Guðrún are forced to confront their own preconceptions and prejudices as they uncover the sinister side of Ríkharður’s past.

Harm is the third novel featuring the soft-spoken Reykjavík detective Guðgeir Fransson to appear in English. Sólveig Pálsdóttir again weaves a complex web of intrigue that plays out in the Westman Islands, remote southern Iceland and Reykjavík while asking some searching questions about things society accepts at face value – and others it is not prepared to tolerate.

This is the third book in Sólveig Pálsdóttir’s police procedural Ice and Crime series. You can read this book as a stand-alone, but of course you will get more of the character development if you start with the first book, The Fox. It is well worth doing so, as this is an excellent series.

In Harm, the reader is transported to the Westman Islands, an archipelago off Iceland’s south coast.  On a trip with friends to the Islands, well-off doctor Ríkarður Magnússon has been found dead in his luxury caravan and his partner Dilja has gone missing.

Guðgeir Fransson and Elsa Guðrún are the assigned detectives and both have preoccupations of their own to handle as they begin their investigations. Guðrún is still getting over the events of the last book which caused her deep personal trauma and she sometimes struggles to handle everything she is faced with as well as trying to keep her professional relationships on track, while Fransson is concerned about his daughter’s relationship with a young man he doesn’t get along with.

 On the face of it, this case is not especially puzzling.  Diljá and Ríkarður were an ill-matched couple. She is younger and a fitness instructor. They are away with another two couples who are , like Diljá, fitness enthusiasts and who have little in common with Ríkarður.  Ríkarður himself seemed cold and a little controlling.

We know from the beginning that Diljá has drugged Ríkarður, though why is not clear. When Diljá runs before Ríkarður’s body is discovered, the case seems cut and dried. No-one on the trip seems especially cut up by Ríkarður’s demise, though it takes a lot of careful questioning to establish that not everyone in this group is telling all about what happened the night he died.

It’s all very middle class and obvious, until it isn’t. Sólveig Pálsdóttir’s novel looks at the stigma of mental health, the quest of the middle classes to find themselves by more outlandish ways and notions of the quest for youth as an aid prestige. It’s all a bit of a far cry from the lives our police detectives are leading.

Some of these themes though are reflected in the lives and relationships that Guðgeir Fransson and Elsa Guðrún have and it is Elsa who seems to find more common ground with Diljá than she might have expected.

Sólveig Pálsdóttir has produced a well-tuned and cleverly plotted mystery that shows how painstaking detective work can always get to the truth. The detectives’ team work is a joy to read about, and their bosses daily motivational aphorisms are a scream. All of this takes place amid the beauty of the Icelandic setting which brings the reader beyond the usual settings into a fabulous world of ice and crime. I’ll be reading the next one in the series for sure!


Sólveig Pálsdóttir trained as an actor and has a background in the theatre, television and radio. In a second career she studied for degrees in literature and education, and has taught literature and linguistics, drama and public speaking. She has also produced both radio programming and managed cultural events. Her first novel appeared in Iceland in 2012 and went straight to the country’s bestseller list. She has written six novels featuring Reykjavík detective Guðgeir Fransson, and a memoir Klettaborgin which was a 2020 hit in Iceland. Silenced (Fjötrar)received the 2020 Drop of Blood award for the best Icelandic novel of the year and was Iceland’s nomination for the 2021 Glass key award for the best Nordic crime novel of the year. Harm (Skaði), published in October 2021 in Iceland, made it to the bestseller list just like the previous books, and is her third novel to appear in English, following The Fox and Silenced. She took part in several crime fiction and literary festivals such as Bristol’s CrimeFest,Newcastle Noir, Aberdeen’s Granite Noir and Iceland Noir. Sólveig lives in Reykjavík.

Published by marypicken

Passionate book reader. Love all kind of books from 19th century novels to crime thrillers. My blog is predominantly crime, psychological thrillers and police procedurals with a good helping of literary fiction thrown in.

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