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Book Author: Lilja Sigurdardóttir

COLD AS HELL by Lilja Sigurdardóttir: Book Review

Áróra and Ísafold are sisters, but they aren’t very much alike.  Their mother is English, their late father was an Icelander, the two women grew up in both countries and are fluent in English and Icelandic.  That’s about all they have in common, and their different personalities and lifestyles have led to an estrangement.

Áróra is the steady, dependable one.  She has been asked by their mother to get Ísafold out of various scrapes over the years, and now she has been contacted again.  In their mother’s words, Ísafold has disappeared; she hasn’t answered her mother’s phone calls in two weeks nor posted on Facebook for three.  Áróra reluctantly agrees to return to Iceland, talk to her sister’s abusive fiancé, and find out, once more, how Ísafold has gotten into trouble.

When she arrives at the apartment her sister and Bjorn share, she’s taken aback by the man’s reaction to her questions.  “We don’t live together anymore…Ísafold walked out,” he tells her.  “And if you were a decent sister to her, you’d have known that.”  Despite the many times that Áróra has come to her sister’s rescue, she still feels guilty.

The neighbors who live in the apartment building aren’t much help.  One is Grímur, an almost mute, solitary man, a voyeur, who has a pathological obsession with removing all the hair on his body–head, arms, legs, and genitals–involving shaving multiple times a day.  Another resident is Olga, a lonely middle-aged woman who is harboring an illegal immigrant and is fearful of his being discovered and sent back to his homeland.

Áróra has made a profession for herself by searching for money.  To simplify things, she tells people that she’s an accountant, but in reality she looks for and generally finds money that people have hidden away, usually from the tax authorities or from a spouse when a divorce is imminent.  She takes a percentage of what she recovers, and she is very successful.

While she’s searching for her sister, Áróra meets Hákon, and the two start a relationship.  However, a little research shows her that he’s been convicted of business fraud and was recently released from prison.  Despite his bankruptcy, however, he’s managed to become the owner of the upscale hotel where she’s staying, and this makes her curious.  Thus, at the same time she is sexually involved with Hákon, she’s investigating his finances to discover if he has a stash of money hidden somewhere.  If so, and if she’s successful, “wallowing in krónur would be a new experience” for her.

Lilja Sigurdardóttir has written a mystery that takes the reader deep into Iceland, its culture, and its people.  The novel delves into the serious issues of dysfunctional family life, domestic abuse, and financial transgressions.  Áróra is a fascinating protagonist, torn between her feeling of familial duty toward her mother and sister and her feeling of resentment toward them.

You can read more about Lilja Sigurdardóttir at this website.

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.