One of the finest examples of Iceland Noir with a great atmospheric setting

  • Book: Why Did You Lie
  • Location: Reykjavik
  • Author: Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

Review Author: butbooksarebetter



Yrsa S has done it again – I just can’t get enough of her books! Why Did You Lie delivered exactly the right balance of mystery, suspense and spooky vibes, with an irresistible cast of engaging characters. I think what makes these people so relatable are the small details Sigurdardottir includes in the narrative –habits, gestures or actions of daily living that make them really leap from the pages, without slowing down the story. A very fine art indeed, and one that not many writers can pull off.

Why Did You Lie consists of three separate storylines, which at first seem completely unrelated. There are the four people who are stranded on a small island in the sea repairing lighthouse equipment, who come into strive when inclement weather prevents their evacuation from this hostile place. Then we learn of the ordinary couple who have just come back from a holiday in the US only to discover that their house swap may have had some unpleasant repercussions as their American houseguests seem to have vanished into thin air. And last but not least we get to know Nina, a policewoman who comes across some old case files whilst banished to tidy up the police headquarters’ basement. I was utterly engaged with each and every storyline, even though for ages I had no idea whatsoever how the author would bring them all together. But she did – and she did it masterfully.

Fans of Sigurdardottir’s writing will appreciate her eye for detail and her skill of recreating the cold, hostile atmosphere of an Icelandic winter that lends itself so perfectly as the setting for a mystery. Whilst there is no supernatural element as such in this book, the eerie setting was enough to raise some goosebumps for me, and the characters’ fears provide an ever-present air of menace and danger. It was the perfect book to chill out to on my commute in a dark car, making my dash to the front door a bit hastier than normal, which is always a good sign that the story has gotten under my skin.

I can sum up my review by saying that – apart from the title – I loved everything about this book. Hmm, yes, the title: not very catchy I thought, and one that plagues the translation only, as in Icelandic it seems to consist of just one mysterious word (mysterious considering I don’t speak Icelandic – lol). To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have picked up the title if I hadn’t known that the author always delivers a great story. If you have thought the same, I must urge you to reconsider and pick this book up today. It is one of the finest examples of Iceland Noir, and one I thoroughly enjoyed. I am especially saddened to farewell Nina, whose character I felt very close to, and whose fate I felt particularly invested in. As usual, Sigurdardottir doesn’t shy away from including dark and serious themes into her novel, such as suicide, sexual discrimination, child abuse, bereavement and more, which gives the story a very contemporary feel and a depth lacking in many other books in the genre. Anyone looking for an intelligent, well-written and utterly addictive psychological thriller with an atmospheric setting, then this is the perfect book for you!

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