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Book Author: Eva Björg Ægisdóttir

GIRLS WHO LIE by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir: Book Review

Every once in a while I come across a mystery that takes my breath away with its characters, its plotting, its surprises.  Girls Who Lie is such a book.

From its setting in Western Iceland comes the sense of a small country and smaller towns where nearly everyone knows nearly everyone else.  And when something bad happens, everyone knows that too.

The book opens with a painful scene, that of a young mother who has just given birth to an unwanted baby.  She has no idea how to care for her daughter and no one to turn to for help.  She realizes her unreadiness but is unable to overcome it.  Practically her first words to her daughter illustrate her feelings:  “Sorry,” I whisper.  “Sorry you’ve got me for a mother.”

Elma and Sævar are detectives in the small Western Iceland Criminal Investigation Department.  Major crimes in this district are few and far between, but the discovery of a woman’s body in an advanced state of decay is just the beginning of a murder case with roots that go back more than a decade.

The corpse is identified as Maríana (few people in Iceland use last names), a woman with a teenage daughter Hekla.  Maríana was a single mother, living from paycheck to paycheck in Akranes.  She was estranged from her father, who lives in Rekyjavik; her mother and brother are dead.

Twice since giving birth to Hekla, Maríana abandoned her daughter.  The first time, when the child was three years old, she was left alone in their apartment for three days without food or water.  When the authorities discovered the situation, they placed Hekla with Bergrún and Fannar, a couple who were eager to foster the child.

However, when Maríana came home, Hekla was returned to her.  A similar situation occurred seven years later; that time Maríana was gone for three weeks.  Bergrún and Fannar wanted to adopt Hekla, but Maríana would not allow it.  Finally it was agreed that Hekla could stay with the couple every other weekend.

Therefore, given Maríana’s past erratic behavior, a missing person’s alert didn’t go out immediately after she failed to return home after a date, and when a search was started there was no trace of her.  Not until seven months later, when two boys find her body inside the cave.  Upon seeing the state of the injuries, the pathologist declares it murder.

This is really a difficult mystery to blog about because almost anything else I write will give away important plot information.   What I will say is that the author has joined an incredible list of Icelandic mystery authors writing today, including Ragnar Jónasson, Arnaldur Indridason, and Yrsa Sigurdadottir.  If you are a fan of Nordic noir, you owe it to yourself to read Girls Who Lie.  And if you haven’t read any Icelandic mysteries, this book is a perfect place to start.

You can read more about Eva Björg Ægisdóttir at various sites on the web.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.