Book Review: Dead Sweet, Katrín Júlíusdóttir

Book Review: Dead Sweet, Katrín Júlíusdóttir, translated by Quentin Bates

Dead Sweet, Katrín Júlíusdóttir

Book Review: Dead Sweet, Katrín Júlíusdóttir, translated by Quentin Bates


Óttar Karlsson is dead. A well respected public servant who made his name as an anti-corruption crusader, his body is found after missing his own surprise birthday party given by his girlfriend, his mother, and his sister.


The investigation turns up no leads until young detective SigurdÍs discovers a hidden safe in Karlsson’s house. The safe contains extensive documentation of Karlsson’’s involvement in shell companies, questionable sales of publicly owned properties to a friend and co-conspirator, and regular defrauding of ordinary Icelanders. Since so much crime is solved by “following the money,” the detectives rush to follow the trail to the friend, then to a man who drunkenly celebrated Karsson’s death by claiming to have killed him–before passing out on the barroom floor.


Sigurdis, though, is not convinced that the financial crimes are the reason for Karlsson’s death. One of the other pieces of paper in the safe is a phone number belonging to a cellphone in Minnesota, where Karlsson had attended university. The number belongs to a woman named Carla, a woman who admits to knowing Karlsson but who refuses to say any more than the bare minimum about him. Sigurdis does discover, though, that Carla is the mother of a son, a 22-year old son, born while Karlsson was a student in Minnesota. Given that timing, she is positive that there is a connection.


Katrín Júlíusdóttir is an Icelandic politician writing her debut novel. Her knowledge of Icelandic politics and financial crimes shows through the precision of her writing and the complexity of the plot. Júlíusdóttir’s prose is translated beautifully by someone we are familiar with through his translations of other Icelandic authors. Quentin Bates is one of those translators who steps out of the way of the book and lets the author shine, while inserting just enough background into the culture to keep us clueless Americans and other English speakers involved in the story and understanding of the details. (He is from England, but I don’t want to accuse my English friends of being clueless. There are enough of us in America to make my point.)


Sigurdis is a warm and sympathetic character. She may be new to detective work, but she has long experience with violent crime as a victim of child abuse. Her instincts are sound, her willingness to “go rogue” in pursuit of a lead, and her fervent protection of her brother and the aunt who rescued them from their abusive home is all part of her matrix. Sigurdis has trouble with relationships, trust issues with men (she’s straight, but seldom interested in more than a casual fling), forgiveness issues with her mother who endured and allowed the abuse, and both anger and affection for the police officer who initially ignored the complaints against her detective father but then acted decisively to remove him–albeit after her father had broken her leg and put her brother into a coma.


Dead Sweet promises to be the first of a series. I am eagerly looking forward to the future installments.


Our thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things (and again a nod to Orenda Publishing who has found another gem in Nordic Noir) for our copy of Dead Sweet, provided so we could give an honest review as part of this blog tour. The opinions here are solely those of Scintilla. For other perspectives on this novel, check out the other bloggers on this tour.


Dead Sweet, Katrín Júlíusdóttir

Book Review: Dead Sweet, Katrín Júlíusdóttir, translated by Quentin Bates

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