When aid worker Úrsula returns to Iceland for a new job, she’s drawn into the dangerous worlds of politics, corruption and misogyny … a powerful, relevant, fast-paced standalone thriller.
Burned out and traumatised by her horrifying experiences around the world, aid worker Úrsula has returned to Iceland. Unable to settle, she accepts a high-profile government role in which she hopes to make a difference again.
But on her first day in the post, Úrsula promises to help a mother seeking justice for her daughter, who had been raped by a policeman, and life in high office soon becomes much more harrowing than Úrsula could ever have imagined. A homeless man is stalking her – but is he hounding her, or warning her of some danger? And the death of her father in police custody so many years rears its head once again.
As Úrsula is drawn into dirty politics, facing increasingly deadly threats, the lives of her stalker, her bodyguard and even a witch- like cleaning lady intertwine.
Small betrayals become large ones, and the stakes are raised ever higher…
The award-winning internationally bestselling author Lilja Sigurðardóttir returns with Betrayal, a relevant, powerful, fast- paced thriller about the worlds of politics, police corruption and misogyny that feels just a little bit too real…
When it’s October, we read Orenda! and this book is everything that’s best about the #Orentober tag rolled into one. This was the perfect book for me to luxuriate in, in misty Fife this week on half-term. I have absolutely loved Sigurðardóttir’s Reykjavik Noir trilogy and I absolutely could not wait to immerse myself in her latest read, to see what she conjured up next. I was utterly delighted when Anne Cater invited me onto the blog tour for this stunning Orenda novelist and could not wait to see what this master of political Icelandic -noir would present me with next…
Ursula is another one of Sigurðardóttir’s strong female characters and I really fell for her as we are plunged into the story and start to see her passion and energy for supporting other people and making changes happen. Her life is turned absolutely upside down when not only does she become entangled with a mother’s fight for justice on behalf of her daughter; she becomes aware of a stalker’s presence who threatens to turn everything she was so certain of on its head and bring up waves of repercussions regarding her father’s death to boot. If you think that this sounds action-packed you are right – this novel grips you tight and doesn’t let you go for a second as Ursula is pulled in many directions at once as she attempts to navigate these dangers and difficulties in the pursuit of justice…
Just like Sigurðardóttir’s other novels, the other characters on the periphery are every bit as beautifully realised as the main contenders. Stella our cleaning lady with some secrets of her own – and Gunnar, Ursula’s indefatigable driver are vividly drawn and you get a real sense of Ursula’s relationship with them as the novel unfolds. Her every step into uncovering exactly what is going on is perfectly constructed – you are very much at the mercy of this skilled and inventive writer as you follow the trail of breadcrumbs and uncover with Ursula a great deal of things that might have been easier to have been kept hidden.
Ursula is such a well-drawn and memorable narrator: because she is herself suffering from a kind of PTSD from her International work and because of her fractured relationships with her own family, we absolutely buy into her quest to bring about justice for this girl and her mother. Unusually for a thriller, you actually care when you sense danger around her that she is at first unaware of as underneath her tough exterior is a real sense of vulnerability and humanity.
This creates a satisfying tension as we feel protective of her, whilst at the same time we are absolutely in thrall to her skills at navigating the shifting sands of the Icelandic political scene. Her determination and inner strength keeps you turning the pages as more and more secrets begin to come to light. The reader develops a dawning sense that most people in this story are very different than they at first might have appeared and Ursula will need to keep her wits about her as she gets drawn deeper into situations where the familiar begins to twist and then shatter before her very eyes as the underlying tensions begin to come to a head.
Once again, Sigurðardóttir proves that she really can keep the reader on their toes and provide us with several tightly- constructed possibilities that kept me feverishly turning the pages. I was totally invested in the question of who this homeless man was and whether Ursula could trust him, that I just could not out it down. I hate giving spoilers, so I’m definitely avoiding too much detail about exactly what corruption and secrecy she manages to uncover once she begins her quest– but I can promise you that you’ll not be able to predict the ending and you’ll be left wanting more as you turn the final page.
I’ve never been to Iceland but it’s become more and more tempting to me as a consequence of loving these books so much. I read this in a single day, I was so fascinated by Ursula’s predicament and her pursuit of the truth. Sigurdardóttir’s plotting is as skilful as ever, the characters are wonderfully captured and the vividly realised Icelandic Setting allowed me a few moments of lockdown virtual travel from the comfort of my half term bolthole in stunning Fife.
This is a wholly satisfying read and I absolutely loved it. If you like your thrillers brutal and depraved, then this might not appeal to you – but if you enjoy a chilling and intelligent read that will challenge your brain as well as engage your emotions with its well-drawn characters and gripping plot, then you’ve come to the right place.
Thanks so much for Anne Cater for inviting me aboard on the Blog Tour – It was definitely just the trip that I needed at a time when real-life foreign travel seems like an ever remoter possibility. I’d love to see one of Lilya’s books on the screen and I can already envisage some of the locations and characters in my mind’s eye. I would absolutely love to see it brought to life and I know that I say that about most Orenda reads – but Karen has a real eye for a story that you definitely see unfolding visually as you read – and i’d love my #Orentober dreams to come true and see one of these reads on the silver screen one day soon!
Buy yourself a copy here so that you can pack your own bags virtually and experience the intelligence, skill and intrigue of Sigurdardóttir’s prose for yourself. I’d also ike to congratulate Quentin Bates for his work in translating this novel as so translators’ efforts go unsung, and this book is beautifully written and it has clearly been a labour of love to get it right…
Praise for Lilja Sigurdardóttir
‘Tense and pacey’ Guardian
‘Highly unusual’ The Times
‘Smart writing with a strongly beating heart’ Big Issue
‘Deftly plotted’ Financial Times
‘Breathtakingly original’ New York Journal of Books
‘Taut, gritty and thoroughly absorbing’ Booklist
‘A stunning addition to the icy-cold crime genre’ Foreword Reviews
Writer On The Shelf
Icelandic crime-writer Lilja Sigurdardóttir was born in the town of Akranes in 1972 and raised in Mexico, Sweden, Spain and Iceland. An award-winning playwright, Lilja has written four crime novels, including Snare, Trap and Cage, making up the Reykjavik Noir trilogy, which have hit bestseller lists worldwide.
The film rights have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. She lives in Reykjavík with her partner.
Follow her on twitter @lilja1972