“She can sense him standing over her now, wheezing like an old man. The stink of cigarettes fills her nose. If she looked up she would see those dark-grey eyes staring down at her. Instinctively she pulls the duvet a fraction higher over her face. But she can’t hide. The tiny movement will have given her away: he’ll know she’s only pretending to be asleep. Not that it will make any difference.
It’s never made any difference. “
Who is the person in complete distress? Who is the person staring at her while she sleeps? Is this young girl then the focus of the story as it unfolds? It seems only time will tell.
What we do know is that Elma has opted to move back home to Akranes in Iceland after a stint working for Reykjavik CID. Reading between the lines, it appears she may have suffered a break-up; one that she is unable, at this stage, to discuss with anyone. It is simply too painful.
All Elma is prepared to share with her colleagues is that she has lost the man she loved for 9 years but the details are still very sparring. It was clearly a bad split though for her to return to a place she had hoped to leave behind for good. It may only be about an hour away from the Capital by Akranes is the complete opposite of what she has become accustomed to. However, she is determined to make it work and so stepping into the shoes of a former detective who has swapped his Arkanes beat for one in Reykavik, she hopes to settle into a new routine. She has been warned that things are quieter here, but perhaps that is exactly what she needs.
When, however, two teenagers find a body out in the shallows by the old lighthouse, it seems that Elma’s peace and quiet have been short-lived. Is this just a case of misadventure or has something far more sinister taken place?
“It’s a woman. Aged somewhere between thirty and forty. The officers who responded to the call out spotted the injuries as soon as they reached the scene…”
Who this woman is though remains a mystery. In such a small community, someone would notice if one of their neighbours had disappeared so it must be someone from out of town. A tourist is unlikely but can’t be ruled out, and if not a tourist why would anyone be visiting the old lighthouse in Arkanes on a cold, winter night?
Did anyone know the woman? Has someone got a secret of their own they do not wish to share?
It seems so.
At the same time, we are introduced to Magnea who is married to Bjarni. His father, Henrik, owns most of the rental properties in town and as a successful family, they are well-known amongst the community. It seems, however, that this family may also have secrets they hope will remain hidden or at least long forgotten.
Do the secrets that Magnea is trying to suppress have anything to do with the discovery of this woman? Will anyone ever be able to find out why she was in Arkanes?
My Thoughts on The Creak on the Stairs
Icelandic Crime has become somewhat of a fascination of mine over the past few years so as soon as I discovered Eva Björg Ægisdóttir I knew I needed to read her debut novel.
After growing up in Arkanes herself, she has used her own backyard as the backdrop for this novel and it shows. The descriptions are vivid and oppressive. You feel the depth of the cold nights and every freezing bite of the icy wind that features in her work. You sense that the streets she mentions she herself has walked down many times in order to capture the smallest of details and in doing so, Eva has created a wonderfully atmospheric novel. The harshness of the environment can only be described by someone that has lived through the savage winters themselves.
Adding to the descriptions, the narrative unfolds a bit at a time in order to keep the reader hooked throughout. Each time you begin to feel you have reached the correct conclusion, another piece of evidence turns up to completely ruin your theory and in the end, you know that no matter how much time you spend guessing, ultimately every thought you have will be incorrect.
It is a rare talent nowadays, with an ever-increasing number of crime novels being published, that the true nature of the crime remains hidden until the final few chapters. I can only hope that her next novel will be so engrossing.
If you are looking for an introduction into Icelandic Noir, then The Creak on the Stairs would be the perfect place to start.
Do you enjoy Icelandic Crime Novels? Do you have a favourite author or novel you would recommend to others?
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