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Psychological thriller set in Snæfellsnes, ICELAND

30th November 2023

You Can’t See Me by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir, psychological thriller set in Snæfellsnes, Iceland.

Psychological thriller set in Snæfellsnes, ICELAND

I really enjoyed You Can’t See Me by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir – with a few reservations. It’s a prequel to the author’s Forbidden Iceland series, though it differs from the trilogy in some quite important ways. This is an Agatha Christie-style ‘locked room’ mystery, and the police aren’t much in evidence. It’s before the arrival of Elma in Akranes. Nevertheless, the author continues to entrance us with her wonderfully descriptive prose, including elements of superstition and legend, natural history and geography, which transport us to the cold, remote and ruggedly beautiful Icelandic countryside.

You Can’t See Me is a complex novel. There’s a large cast of characters. There’s a family tree diagram at the beginning of the book that helps keep track of most of them. There are two timelines: before and after the discovery of a body. The story is told by several different voices, and the chapters are labelled with the date and narrator’s name, to keep the reader on track. Unusually, the identity of the body that is discovered at the beginning is known to the police but not revealed to the reader until much later. This has the effect of making everyone a potential victim and most characters a potential assailant. On the whole, I enjoyed this trick played on me, if only I could remember which character I was suspecting at any given time!

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The plot involved the Snæberg family, who are holding a family get-together in a designer hotel near the family’s home on the dramatic and beautiful Snæfellsnes peninsula. The family is well-known in Iceland. They descend from a successful fishing entrepreneur and have extended the family fortune through a variety of enterprises, amassing yet more money and influence in the process. They include Petra, an in-demand interior designer, and Hakón Ingamar, who is a stylish young influencer with a horde of female admirers. There are also partners and in-laws, who feel out of place at the gathering for various reasons. At first sight, they are a golden family and it’s natural that the hotel’s employees, including new-recruit Irma, are excited when they learn about the weekend of celebrations.

Gradually each individual’s character flaws, and their backstories, are revealed. There are childhood tragedies, psychological damage and resentments. They are seasoned abusers of drugs and excessive amounts of alcohol, and the staff witness the changes in the family as the effects loosen their tongues and release their inhibitions, as well as inhibiting self-control. The poor hoteliers had no idea what they had let themselves in for! Meanwhile, unknown characters stalk the corridors of the hotel and the grounds outside, peering in from the almost perpetual darkness. All of this contributes to an oppressive air of danger and tension.

The ending is satisfying, and the mystery is sustained well throughout. Once it became apparent which characters were important to the storyline – and which I was supposed to care about – I enjoyed the book greatly. I just wish I had the capacity to keep track of them all from the start.

Sue for the TripFiction Team

Catch our reviewer Sue on Twitter @SueKelsoRyan and on IG @SueKelosRyan

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