Cold As Hell by Lilja Sigurdardottir

Icelandic sisters Áróra and Ísafold live in different countries and aren‘t on speaking terms, but when their mother loses contact with Ísafold, Áróra reluctantly returns to Iceland to find her sister. But she soon realizes that her sister isn’t avoiding her … she has disappeared, without trace.

As she confronts Ísafold’s abusive, drug-dealing boyfriend Björn, and begins to probe her sister’s reclusive neighbours – who have their own reasons for staying out of sight – Áróra is led into an ever-darker web of intrigue and manipulation.

Baffled by the conflicting details of her sister’s life, and blinded by the shiveringly bright midnight sun of the Icelandic summer, Áróra enlists the help of police officer Daníel, as she tries to track her sister’s movements, and begins to tail Björn – but she isn’t the only one watching…

Slick, tense, atmospheric and superbly plotted, Cold as Hell marks the start of a riveting, addictive new series from one of Iceland’s bestselling crime writers.


The crime writing genre is a tough one to get a book noticed in, simply because of the wealth of stunning books released every single year! So for a book to stand out, it has to be at the top of its game and Cold As Hell by Lilja Sigurdardottir certainly is.

As a writer Lilja Sigurdardottir never fails to deliver storylines that are both thrilling and complex, yet at the same time subtle and moving. The plot revolves around the complex relationship between two troubled sisters, one of whom has apparently disappeared without a trace, leaving the second, Áróra battling her own demons to find her.

All sibling relationships are fraught with tensions, misunderstandings. Sometimes unsurmountable struggles lead to a breakdown in the family dynamic and this painful reality is beautifully wrought in this superbly written thriller. The writer explores how sibling tensions lead to Arora having to confront thoughts and emotions she has been running from. It forces her to return to the scene of her sisters disappearance, but much more importantly to the drama as it unfolds, why her sister would seemingly have disappeared, running from an abusive relationship, yet not contacted those who would offer her comfort and sanctuary, despite all that lies between them? The way this plays out within the narrative is moving and troubling in equal measure and creates levels of tension within a story that is so much more complex than the average thriller.

For me style over substance doesn’t work and Lilja Sigurdardottir has not fallen into that trap. She weaves a complex tale of betrayal and violence, loyalty and love and yet never loses sight of the essentials of a great thriller. Because I do want to be thrilled, I just don’t want endless moments of excitement and tension without emotional connection to the characters. I wanted Áróra to face her worst fears, to suffer emotionally, which I know sounds bad of me, but it’s true and then face the possibility of a loss greater than her ability to cope with it. To see if she could carry on, to grow and change and for that the be the focus of the dramatic tension and the author delivers that and much more.

She weaves complex characters within a story dripping with a sense of ever increasing dread. No one within it is flat or one dimensional. She even turns the concept of atypical villain’s on it’s head and delivers assemble cast all of whom could have played a part in her sisters disappearance. Page by page we are taught never to take anything for granted, you heart will go out even to those you initially find yourself distrusting.

This is without a doubt one of the finest thrillers I have read this year, from a master storyteller!

You can purchase this novel directly from the publisher at Orenda Books

Or from Waterstones and Amazon

Why not order it from your local independent bookshop?

About the author

Icelandic crime-writer Lilja Sigurdardóttir was born in the town of Akranes in 1972 and raised in Mexico, Sweden, Spain and Iceland. An award-winning playwright, Lilja has written four crime novels, with Snare, the first in a new series and Lilja’s English debut shortlisting for the CWA International Dagger and hitting bestseller lists worldwide. Trap soon followed suit, with the third in the trilogy Cage winning the Best Icelandic Crime Novel of the Year, and was a Guardian Book of the Year. Lilja’s standalone Betrayal, was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award for Best Nordic Crime Novel. The film rights have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. Lilja is also an award-winning screenwriter in her native Iceland. She lives in Reykjavík with her partner.

About the translator

Quentin Bates escaped English suburbia as a teenager, jumping at the chance of a gap year working in Iceland. For a variety of reasons, the gap year stretched to become a gap decade, during which time he went native in the north of Iceland, acquiring a new language, a new profession as a seaman and a family, before decamping en masse for England. He worked as a truck driver, teacher, netmaker and trawlerman at various times before falling into journalism, largely by accident. He is the author of a series of crime novels set in present-day Iceland (Frozen Out, Cold Steal, Chilled to the Bone, Winterlude, Cold Comfort and Thin Ice) which have been published worldwide. He has translated all of Ragnar Jónasson’s Dark Iceland series.

4 thoughts on “Cold As Hell by Lilja Sigurdardottir

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s