Blog Tour: Betrayal, Lilja Sigurðardóttir

Book Review: Betrayal, Lilja Sigurðardóttir, translated by Quentin Bates


Mystery: Betrayal, Lilja Sigurðardóttir, translated by Quentin Bates

Blog Tour October 10, 2020


We previously reviewed Cage by Lilja Sigurðardóttir on this blog and fell in love with her extraordinary storytelling style. The two other books in that trilogy have been on our TBR pile for far too long. Long enough that she has embarked on a new novel outside of that series, also set in her home of Iceland, but again featuring her unique voice and distinctive style.


Betrayal is a mystery, part of what is called “Nordic Noir.” For a large part of the book, though, I was not entirely sure what the mystery was. Ursula has returned home to Iceland after years of aid work with Doctors without Borders. She has accepted a ministry position in the government, hoping to use her experience abroad to improve the lives of immigrants to her own country. Gunnar is her driver/bodyguard. Stella is part of the cleaning crew in the ministry offices. Petur is a homeless man who has a strange fixation on Ursula. Marita is the wife of a policeman. The story changes chapter by chapter from the perspective of one character to that of another.


Ursula’s first meeting, literally right before she is even sworn in, is with a mother seeking justice for her daughter who has been raped by a police officer — Marita’s husband. Ursula promises to pursue the case. However, bureaucracy seems to interfere with her efforts at every turn. Additionally, she begins receiving vile threats via email, threats that include vicious rape fantasies and ramp up from there. She is also receiving cryptic threats from the homeless man Petur, warning her to beware of the “devil.” Petur often tries to approach her personally, leaving her fearful for her life.


As the story progresses, the mysteries begin to intertwine. Ursula’s father had been murdered years before. How is Petur connected to those events? Secret ministry meetings are being leaked to the press. How is that information getting out? Strange men begin appearing at Ursula’s home. What is drawing them there?


We also get perspectives on the personal lives of the characters. Gunnar has a tempestuous relationship with his girlfriend, complicated by trauma from his own childhood. Stella is a dark-skinned woman who grew up in Iceland but was born in Mexico. She speaks the language and loves the culture, but often struggles to be accepted by a fairly monochromatic society. Marita is also an outsider, from the Faroe Islands. She is convinced of her husband’s innocence, but struggles to endure the whispers and stares of judgmental neighbors. And although Ursula is Icelandic by birth and upbringing, she has spent so many years away from home and in the midst of horrifying experiences that she struggles to feel at home when she is home.


Lilja Sigurðardóttir pulls these disparate characters and their separate lives together in a brilliant plot that ties things together very neatly. I was disappointed to have this book end. It completely renewed my commitment to bring other books by this talented author closer to the top of my TBR pile (thank you Orenda Books for the sale earlier this year when I was able to pick them up!). Betrayal is not just one betrayal, but a series of them. All of the characters experience some kind of betrayal. Readers, though, have the author’s full commitment and are richly rewarded for the experience.


Our thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Blog Tours and Orenda Books for our copy of this novel, provided for our participation in this blog tour. For other perspectives on the book, check out the other bloggers on the tour. The opinions here are solely those of Scintilla.



Book Review: Betrayal, Lilja Sigurðardóttir, translated by Quentin Bates

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