Why Did You Lie? by Yrsa Sigurdardottir and Victoria Cribb (translator)

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Why Did You Lie? by Yrsa Sigurdardottir and Victoria Cribb (translator)

Category: Thrillers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: While the consummate ease with which three troubling narratives are conveyed doesn't quite reach the way they get to be combined, this is still a dark thriller of note from a mistress of the form.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: August 2016
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781473605053

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Shortlisted for the Petrona Award 2017

There's a bunch of rock stacks – four of them, even if their name implies only three – off the coast of Iceland. The largest is a tall and thin lump of rock, hazardous to anyone on it, and home to a crumbling and inoperable helipad and a small, squat lighthouse – not the lighthouse of your imagination, but a perky concrete cabin, not needing any more than the one room to house the gear and the lantern on top. Replacing some of that gear and surveying the site is a group of four people – specialist workers, and a photographer to capture it all. So why and how do we know their story ends in tragedy – two of them cast to the waters below, and a third seemingly stabbed before the prologue is over? And why is their narrative interspersed with that of a woman, struggling with work in the police and seemingly with a haunted garage, the scene of her husband's failed suicide, and also that of a family returning home from a house-swap trip to Florida to find something they really didn't want to have waiting?

Place is important in the books of Yrsa Sigurdardottir, and I've never failed to have a real sense of locale from her books that I've read. The rocky stacks are a perfect place to have a harrowing drama of seclusion – put a blanket layer of bad weather on the pictures you can find online of the place and bingo, a locked-room mystery courtesy of geography and climate. Character is also important, and I did find some of the writing explaining policewoman Nina's circumstance a bit clunky initially, but she's a great person to sympathise with, as dark things and seeming occurrences force her to break away from her comatose husband's hospital bed. And equally important is humanity – and the natural way the family of returning holiday-makers, he a software guy, she a fitness freak, and their surly teenaged son immediately losing what tan he gained in the gloom of his untidy bedroom, shows the author at ease in putting real people on the page.

What she is prime at, as the summary testifies, is putting real people in very unreal, and darkly spooky situations. Then letting all hell loose, as we not only have to survive the creeps but piece the connections together. Even a seasoned genre reader will struggle with working out what links these disparate strands at first – it seems the only thing linking all three is a common theme about being an unappreciated outsider while at work. I do have to say, however, that things will become quite evident quite early – people's involvement, places and other factors will all be guessed at easily if you allow yourself to think away from the page for a while. It's a little too obvious what is not happening, too – one character just won't physically go and check up on what's troubling him, Nina won't investigate a pertinent person.

That fact – that if the truth be told it was far too close to halfway when I'd guessed the status of the key person, if not his current identity – can count against the book, but it's about the only thing that does. Despite my comments, the author pretty much sticks to her side of the bargain – neither hiding too much nor too little from us, and giving us one more singular drama, that both hints at nightmares built into the very rock of Iceland and provides evidence that the human heart is blacker and more violent than a volcano's output.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

For a slightly more straight thriller, again one building back up to its prologue, we can suggest Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard.

Buy Why Did You Lie? by Yrsa Sigurdardottir and Victoria Cribb (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Why Did You Lie? by Yrsa Sigurdardottir and Victoria Cribb (translator) at Amazon.co.uk.

Buy Why Did You Lie? by Yrsa Sigurdardottir and Victoria Cribb (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Why Did You Lie? by Yrsa Sigurdardottir and Victoria Cribb (translator) at Amazon.com.


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