Tuesday 12 December 2023

Dead Sweet by Katrín Júlísdóttir BLOG TOUR #DeadSweet @katrinjul @OrendaBooks #Iceland #BookReview


A murder is just the beginning…

When Óttar Karlsson, a wealthy and respected government official and businessman, is found murdered, after failing to turn up at his own surprise birthday party, the police are at a loss. It isn't until young police officer Sigurdís finds a well-hidden safe in his impersonal luxury apartment that clues start emerging.

As Óttar's shady business dealings become clear, a second, unexpected line of enquiry emerges, when Sigurdís finds a US phone number in the safe, along with papers showing regular money transfers to an American account. Following the trail to Minnesota, trauma rooted in Sigurdís's own childhood threatens to resurface and the investigation strikes chillingly close to home…

Atmospheric, deeply unsettling and full of breakneck twists and turns, Dead Sweet is a startling debut thriller that uncovers a terrifying world of financial crime, sinister cults and disturbing secret lives, and kicks off an addictive, mind-blowing new series.

Dead Sweet by Katrín Júlíusdóttir was published on 7 December 2023 by Orenda Books and is translated by Quentin Bates. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this Blog Tour. 

Debut Novel ✔
Female Author ✔
Crime Fiction ✔
New Series ✔
Icelandic Setting ✔
Orenda Books ✔

Dead Sweet by Katrín Júlísdóttir ticks all of my book-boxes. The start of a new crime series, set in Iceland, by a female debut author, and published by Orenda Books. Absolute perfection!

Óttar Karlsson is found dead, on a beach, not long after he failed to turn up for his 50th birthday party. Karlsson is a well known figure in Iceland, loved by the people for his investigations into the corrupt financial institutions that almost brought the country down. His death comes as a huge shock as it is clear that this is a murder case. Young police officer Sigurdís has recently returned to work after a short suspension from duty. Assaulting a member of the public is not a good move for a police officer, and Sigurdís is determined to make her boss Garðar realise just how committed she is. 

Garðar's seniority and his attempts to restrict Sigurdís to desk duties, she proves that she has that special something; the ability to spot things that other officers may miss, and it is her discovery in Óttar's bathroom that turns this investigation around. 

This is a tense and multi-layered crime thriller that incorporates politics and finance, as well as introducing the reader to a perfectly created cast of characters, headed up by the enigmatic Sigurdís. Whilst she may be a fairly junior member of the police team, she's certainly the leader of this story. 

There are some dark and troubling incidents within the story, the reader is more aware of Óttar's true nature than any of the police officers, or his colleagues and adoring public and the narrative takes a turn to the even darker side as we learn about his younger years spent in America.  Interwoven throughout the text, we are given short passages told by an unknown narrator, this adds a sense of unease and tension that builds slowly throughout. The story is ably translated by Quentin Bates, I'm a huge fan of his translation work. 

The murder case is intriguing, with so many possible suspects, it is so well detailed and intricately balanced. I especially enjoyed getting to know the characters; learning more about Sigurdís and what makes her the woman that she is. Watching her growing relationship with colleague Unnar, and discovering just why Garðar invest so much into his mentorship of her. 

Whilst this is, in no doubt, a crime fiction story, it also incorporates so much more. The author's cleverly woven back stories for her main characters enable the reader to realise that early years can affect our adult life. Not everyone who experiences trauma will react in the same way, and Óttar and Sigurdís certainly have chosen different paths in life. 

One of the most outstanding features of the novel is the impact of action on others. It is not just the victim of a crime who is affected by it, the victim's family, and indeed, the criminal's family and close friends' lives can change so much when visited by trauma. This is a novel of many layers and each one is a delicious as the last. 

Sigurdís is a very welcome new character to the Iceland Noir scene, I'm looking forward to her next case. Highly recommended. 

Katrín received the Blackbird Award, an Icelandic crime-writing prize, for her first novel, Dead Sweet in 2020. 
Her debut novel was reviewed well by critics and hit the best-seller lists in the first weeks after publication. 
Katrín has a political background and was a member of Parliament from 2003 until 2016. 
Before she was elected to Parliament, Katrín was an advisor and project manager at a tech company and a senior buyer and CEO in the retail sector, as well as the Managing Director of a student union during her uni years. 
She worked from a young age in the fishing industry, as a store clerk and took night time shifts at a pizza place. 
She studied Anthropology and has an MBA from Reykjavík University. 
She was raised in Kópavogur, about 15 minutes' drive from downtown Reykjavík. 
She now lives in the neighbouring town of Garðabær with her family. 
She is married to author Bjarni M. Bjarnason, who encouraged her to start writing. 
They have four boys.

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.

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