Betrayal by Lilja Sigurdardottir and Quentin Bates (translator)
|Betrayal by Lilja Sigurdardottir and Quentin Bates (translator)|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: As is quite often, an intriguing visit to Iceland and its crimes, but not the most successful – and certainly not the most surprising – occasion.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 276||Date: October 2020|
|Publisher: Orenda Books|
|External links: Author's website|
Meet Ursula, the stand-in minister, drafted in from outside the leading party to cover the post for a year. You might get to meet her hunky husband she can't believe she deserves, and the children who are ignorant of just how she spent all her empathy for them on previous jobs in the foreign aid charity sector. You'll meet her ministry's cleaner, who bizarrely has fallen into the task of helping a famous newsreader with her Tinder profile. You'll certainly meet a homeless tramp, who has taken one look at a newspaper image of Ursula, and, knowing her of old, decided she needs saving from the devil posing beside her. You'll meet the ministerial bodyguard and driver the tramp almost immediately forces Ursula to accept. But as for the first ministerial case, of a woman demanding her daughter's rape get looked at and pronto, nobody can say, for all records of Ursula's meeting with the woman have been wiped…
I was intrigued when seeing this as an option for my reading choice to see google translated its original Icelandic title as 'Fraud' and not Betrayal. Either way that and the whole blurb suggested some further dark look at Iceland, and with snow swamping Reykjavik it's certainly not the brightest, most friendly place. I was also interested to read that her latest book, already out for her native readers, starts a fresh series, meaning this was potentially a great way to sample this author, with a self-contained story and none of the investment in time a trilogy takes.
I couldn't pretend to have been too emotionally invested in the characters, however, which was a shame. Of course I'm rather ignorant about Nordic politics, but the idea that someone would be plucked from the charity sector front-line to become minister overnight, and at a super-ministry of three large departments at once, just wasn't believable. It takes an age for anyone to have any superstition about how and why this happened. Ursula's home situation with the tramp's attentions still didn't really work – and when the connection between the two thuds on to the page, well…
The drive for me, that kept me with this novel, was of course finding out how the heck everything else connected. Why are there visits to a journalist's naivety at the lesbian swiping scene? What was the truth of the rape case – both then when it allegedly happened, and now when some broom unknown has swept it under the carpet? I'm used to the similarly-named Yrsa Sigurdardottir bundling completely disparate elements together and making them suddenly prove connected, but the spread here seemed even more enjoyably elaborate. Yrsa tends to combine peculiar crime with peculiar crime – helping someone with their dating profile is not one of those.
My final impression of this read was, however, not convinced. If the readability had been any lower I believe I would have sat and worked harder at picking holes in certain people – I was left with the taste that the novelist's advice of writing everyone to the top of their intelligence (so they don't get to do something stupid just to provide for narrative) was not completely adhered to. I was left slightly annoyed that one of the elements of the story I identified above didn't really come to anything, except perhaps to inspire someone to do the patently impossible. But what I think I railed against the most was that it was just too guessable. Much too early I thought to myself we're supposed to be thinking that now – so it must be a red herring – but it was the real thing. And the fact that – unless you have an inbuilt prejudice against one character, at least – the big bad is blindingly obvious from the start drains all drama out of the way the reveal is delayed not once but twice at the conclusion. Rarely have I felt so little surprise at the wrapping-up of a book like this, and I am never that right. Which gives me a surprise as to how this was award-nominated, and gives you no surprise to find this is not really recommended as a must-purchase. Browse it should the chance arise, for I've never been in the chambers of power in my visits to Iceland through crime fiction, but perhaps just read it for the satisfaction of solving the crime early. And whether that makes you feel defrauded or betrayed I will leave to you.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
We're still spreading the worth of reading the series containing Grave's End (DS Alexandra Cupidi) by William Shaw amongst crime fans.
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