The Creak on the Stairs is the first in the electrifying FORBIDDEN ICELAND series
The Icelandic Police team of criminal investigators include:
Hörður Höskuldsson – leader of the Akranes Criminal Investigation Division. With many local connections, he is in charge of the entire Western Region of Iceland. Hörður often cycles to work and is not famous for his punctuality.
Elma – Recently returned to her home town of Akranes after a traumatic break-up with her partner of nine years. She worked in Reykjavik in the CID and now joins the Akranes team. Despondent over her failed relationship, she is lonely and introverted, but is a brilliant investigator.
Sævar – A detective on the CID and Elma’s work partner. Sævar and Elma have both just ended long relationships.
Begga – verbose, single, and mother to an orange tabby cat, Begga adds some much needed levity to the serious nature of their profession. Begga befriends Elma, who would never have the nerve to make the first move in any friendship.
Elma’s new job begins with a murder. A body of a woman was found near the old lighthouse half submerged in the water. The body is that of a woman pilot, in her thirties, with two young sons. The investigation into her death will have many ties to the past.
Then skipping back to the past and the years 1989-1992 we follow the life of Elísabet, a tiny girl living in Akranes. Elísabet‘s father was a fisherman who perished when his boat capsized in a storm. Bereft of her beloved father, this is only the first of a long line of losses for Elísabet. A beautiful child, friendless, she was also mistreated and criminally neglected.
“In a small town like this, people are very protective of their reputations.”
First let’s discuss the title. ‘A creak on the stairs‘ could be either comforting or menacing. Comforting if you hear someone you love come home safely. Menacing if you don’t expect anyone and you’re all alone… Of course, with this being the first book in a new Icelandic crime series, one would assume that we’ll go with ‘menacing’.
I’m always keen to discover new crime series and this one did not disappoint on any level. With a vividly described setting, this novel had a strong sense of place. Set in the author’s home town, and her affection shows.
If I had one quibble with the book it was the difficult Icelandic names. To my untrained English ear, I couldn’t even sound them out, which at times made it hard to keep some of the characters straight in my mind. This is entirely my own fault, and in no way reflects negatively upon the book. Names like Guðrún Snæbjörnsdóttir don’t exactly roll off the tongue…
The protagonist, Elma, was a sympathetic character, though she had her own flaws and baggage, as do we all. She seemed ‘down to earth’ and ‘what you see is what you get’. However even Elma has secrets… I look forward to following her career in subsequent novels.
The murder investigation was a slow burn. Multi-layered, it exposed secrets, shame, and egocentricity. A small town mystery with myriad ties to past sins. With themes of grief, loss, child abuse, and more, this story was well written and compelling with some secrets exposed near the end. The ending was both satisfying and poignant in equal measure.
Icelandic noir at its very finest!
This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Orenda Books via Anne Cater.Publication date: May 28, 2020 Publisher: Orenda Books
ISBN: 9781913193041 ASIN: B085H684B6 400 pages
Born in Akranes, Iceland 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.
Follow Eva Björg Ægisdóttir on Twitter.
About the Translator
Victoria Cribb studied and worked in Iceland for many years. She has translated more than 25 novels from the Icelandic and, in 2017, she received the Orðstír honourary translation award for services to Icelandic literature.