Betrayal by Iceland’s Lilja Sigurdardottir #NordicNoir #reading #Iceland #thiller

Betrayal is the first standalone of Lilja’s that I have read. Where shall we start? Isn’t the cover gorgeous? Every time the book caught my eye I thought it was beautiful and it made me want to read. The title is also thought provoking. Who did the betraying? Who was betrayed?

Betrayal is a thriller featuring political elements and corruption. The story makes us think about the issues of homelessness, alcoholism, the role of women and reminds us how greatly someone’s past can influence their present. It also shows us how easily some systems of society can undermine our ideals and hinder the progress that one strives to reach .

The story is mainly Ursula’s. Ursula has a background in overseas aid work but returns to Iceland and is given a high profile government role and this is our anchor in time. She almost immediately gets a stalker who contacts her regularly with particularly gruesome threats. The story only lasts the span of a couple of weeks. It is pretty fast paced and if you like a politically charged, pacy thriller (kind of like Borgen was on television) then you might like this. Chapters are arranged kind of like a diary. So for example each section is a day, for example, we have Saturday then chapters 8, 9 and 10. Each short chapter telling a different piece of the story from one character’s point of view on that day. At the beginning it took me a bit of effort to get used to this set up and to know the characters but before I was half way through reading Betrayal I was hooked.

At the start there was one thing that kind of reminded me a bit of some of James Oswald’s books. He often features a kind of supernatural or ‘strange’ element in some of his police procedural books. Call it what you will. Something that you don’t quite understand as a reader, something intangible. This book has a few characters that behave strangely. We get the feeling that some greater force drives them. Something that we do not understand. This can be disconcerting for a reader but we have to have faith that the author will show us why or what this is as the story develops. I had full faith in the author so I kept on reading and by the end understood these odd characters enough to satisfy me.

Betrayal has lots of lovely details which I really like as they are contemporary, relatable and realistic. Characters meet over cigarette breaks, they use Tinder and there are great descriptions of female guilt around work and family. Most of all this book has some lovely food references which is something I really enjoy when I read. The day after I finished it I had to go and make some cinnamon sugar for my toast. Perfect for this time of year!

By the end of the story the reader realises that the idea of betrayal can be applied to nearly every character in this book. The story is an exploration into different kinds of betrayal and how the characters deal or don’t deal with it. We can betray our country (Iceland has great examples of that, also explored in Lilja’s other books), we can betray a group of people or betray those we love. We can even betray ourselves. Betrayal is a great topic to write around as it induces all kinds of emotions and reactions. The author is clever and subtle about some of the betrayals and more obvious about other incidents of betrayal but the book earns it title well. Get yourself a copy, make some cinnamon toast and settle down on a wet, autumnal weekend and read it.

Betrayal by Lilja Sigurdardottir is published by Orenda in paperback on October 15th and costs £8.99. The book was expertly translated from Icelandic to English by fellow crime writer Quentin Bates.

A copy of Betrayal was provided to Nordic Noir by the publisher as part of a blog tour. You can find out what other bloggers thought of it by checking out the blog tour poster below.

All of Lilja’s books in English have been reviewed on this blog. Please use the Search bar on the home page to find the articles if you wish to read them.


  1. Sonja van der Westhuizen · · Reply

    Oh, I’m looking forward to this one. I think the reference to Borgen sold it to me. Also the cover… and that it’s Icelandic.. and it’s Lilja 😉

  2. Thanks for the blog tour support x

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