Lead Review (Deceit)

  • Book: Deceit
  • Location: Reykjavik
  • Author: Jónína Leósdóttir

Review Author: tripfiction



Deceit is the first of Jónína’s new series of books featuring an ill-matched (and divorced) couple. Soffía is a larger-than-life, act-first-think-later Icelandic police detective and Adam is a deep-thinking, principled but almost ineffectual, English psychologist. The book is set in Reykjavík during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has restricted life in every respect and left the police short of staff. Soffía is juggling cases and needs to solve one in particular quickly – needles have been maliciously inserted into food sold by a local business. She calls on Adam to create a profile of the perpetrator, with a view to identifying the motive and the individual responsible. Adam puts his research skills to good use and tries to help. Meanwhile, he is also called upon to assist a girl who is struggling with mental health issues, whose case is more complex than it first appears.

The premise of Deceit is interesting – it’s a crime with a precedent in the real world but it’s very uncommon. It’s unclear at first whether the threat is terrorism, or petty revenge. By setting the book during the pandemic, Jónína makes the atmosphere even more oppressive. The anxiety is ramped up by Adam’s paranoia about becoming infected, which places him at the extreme end of a spectrum of cautiousness. Deceit reminds us of how little was known about the virus at the time and how very frightening it was for many people. The author emphasises Iceland’s reaction to the pandemic, as distinct from other countries’, and the contrast between Soffía’s blasé approach and Adam’s anxiety is interesting too.

I enjoyed the terse conversations between Adam and Soffía, which added to the tension. I am not sure that Adam’s role as a psychologist amounted to much more than educated guesses – maybe real psychologists might feel a bit hard-done-by to be represented as offering so little. Granted, Soffía wasn’t helping him much! Hopefully the next book will offer more scope to display his skills.

Elements of this book can only really work because of its characters are Icelandic – no spoilers! There is a real feeling that this is an Icelandic book, maybe because the descriptions are of everyday scenes, rather than tourist brochure style. It’s worth a read and maybe it’s the start of something really good.

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