Burned out and traumatised by her horrifying experiences around the world, aid worker Úrsula has returned to Iceland. Unable to settle, she accepts a high-profile government role in which she hopes to make a difference again.
But on her first day in the post, Úrsula promises to help a mother seeking justice for her daughter, who had been raped by a policeman, and life in high office soon becomes much more harrowing than Úrsula could ever have imagined. A homeless man is stalking her – but is he hounding her, or warning her of some danger? And why has the death of her father in police custody so many years earlier reared its head again?
As Úrsula is drawn into dirty politics, facing increasingly deadly threats, the lives of her stalker, her bodyguard and even a witch-like cleaning lady intertwine. Small betrayals become large ones, and the stakes are raised ever higher…
Exploring the harsh worlds of politics, police corruption and misogyny, Betrayal is a relevant, powerful, fast-paced thriller that feels just a little bit too real…
Hi and welcome to my review of Betrayal!
I was such a fan of the Reykjavík Noir trilogy that I nearly jumped for joy when I learnt Lilja Sigurðardóttir had a new novel coming out, and I literally jumped for joy when I unexpectedly found a review copy in my letterbox (huge thanks to Orenda Books!). Somehow the ice crystals on the cover dissuaded me from picking up Betrayal in summer but as soon as the temperatures dropped I couldn’t hold off any longer.
Frankly, if I were to read this kind of blurb for a book by another author or publisher, I most likely would not be much inclined to read it: I don’t like politics and I generally don’t like reading about politics. But from the author who brought me the heady mix of Breaking Bad and Narcos with a kickass female lead? No way in hell was I walking away from Betrayal! I was all in for all the crime and all the drama and all the strong characters Lilja could throw at me!
And I’m happy to report she did not disappoint in any way. Betrayal is as much character-driven as it is plot-driven and it doesn’t read like a political thriller at all, despite being set against a backdrop of a ministry .
Main character Úrsula has not chosen a career down a well-trodden path for herself. Working for Médecins Sans Frontières, she faced hell in Syria and Ebola in Liberia. Now she’s back in Iceland and has been offered a seemingly rather cushy (especially considering her previous work experiences) position as minister. I say seemingly because in practice there’s little cushy about it. She’s thrown in at the deep end, to the wolves and under the bus all at the same time. Trying to resolve a few cases at a time, to make a difference for her country, she is sneered at and threatened and bullied. Moreover, present events bring back the trauma of her father’s murder when she was little and it seems that the carpet under which this particular dirt was swept is about to be lifted up for all the world to see.
I love Lilja’s writing style, taut, to the point. She never beats about the bush. Her writing never feels descriptive, yet I can always picture every person, place and event effortlessly. Her characterisation is spot-on and never fails to draw me into the story. I wanted to know where the plot would go, and how all the threads would come together, but my motivation for that, that feeling of being invested, came from the characters. I was intrigued from the start but by the end I was so invested that I couldn’t turn the pages quickly enough.
I also love how every one of Lilja’s books teaches me a little more about a country I love and hope to visit again someday (I still have to find me a real life puffin!)
Betrayal is out now and if you’re interested in a second (or third or tenth) opinion then do check out the ongoing Random Things blog tour!