Eva Bjorg Aegisdottir’s accomplished first novel is not only a full-fat mystery, but also a chilling demonstration of how monsters are made. If there is a moral, it is that evil isn’t “to be found lurking in dark corners but in the human soul”. Once again Iceland, with its bleak landscapes and voracious sea fleas, foul weather and beautiful freaks, appears to be a hellish place to live. No wonder the noir fiction it inspires is the blackest of blacks.
In the Icelandic town of Akranes, a body is discovered in a lighthouse. Investigating officer Elma, smarting from a failed love affair, investigates the dead woman’s past and discovers tendrils that extend throughout the community. We’re used to Icelandic writers lowering the temperature — in more ways than one — and Ægisdottir proves as adept at this chilly art as any of her compatriots. Elma makes a memorably complex character, and Cribb’s translation is (as ever) a class act.