Lilja Sigurðardóttir is the Icelandic crime fiction author who gave us the compelling "Reykjavik Noir" book trilogy (Snare, Trap, Cage) which put her on the map of the young and promising Nordic crime writers. I enjoyed all three books, though I believe that the first installment (Snare) had a spark that the following two novels lacked. Anyway, Lilja is one of the authors whose work I am truly interested in and I couldn't miss the chance of purchasing her newest book, Betrayal. It is a standalone novel and not part of a series, so no prior reading is required in order to comprehend the plot and the characters. In general terms, I enjoyed this book but there are one or two things that bothered me, especially the use of some trite plot tropes that constitute the hallmark for the vast majority of the contemporary Nordic noir novels. Furthermore, the storyline even though it is interesting enough to keep the reader's attention, it doesn't offer something truly innovative to the genre. Perhaps this is something too much to demand from every crime novel you read but it is a kind of personal niggle that more than often makes me feel frustrated even when reading decent crime fiction works.
The main protagonist is Úrsula, a young woman who was away from Iceland for a long time participating in aid work in countries like Syria and Liberia where the outbreak of the lethal Ebola virus disease cost the lives of numerous individuals. When she returns to her hometown, Reykjavik, she is appointed Minister of Interior, even though she wasn't at any time involved with the Icelandic political scene and she will embark on an adventure that will bring back traumatic memories from her past. Úrsula has developed a peculiar form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that makes her emotionally numb even towards the members of her own family. From the moment she takes over as the new Minister she will find herself entangled in a complex political game where no one can be truly trusted and betrayal is the most common practice for the people surrounding her. Soon, Úrsula will start receiving some disturbing and incoherent messages that shall put her in unease and force her to delve deep into her personal past.
The story is narrated through multiple perspectives, as it is more than common in Scandinavian crime fiction novels, and the chapters are short and dense. The plot progresses at an even, steady pace leading to the climax in the final pages. Apart from Úrsula, we witness the story unfolding through the eyes of her bodyguard and chauffeur, Gunnar, and through Stella's point of view, a young cleaner working in the Ministry of Interior. Betrayal is a crime novel featuring a lot of secondary characters but not so many as to be difficult for the reader to keep up. The setting is the fairy- tale city of Reykjavik and the reader who is not familiar with the ever-growing Icelandic crime literature will get a good taste of the city's vibe. If you are a devoted fan of the Nordic noir genre then this is a title that you want to add in your collection as Lilja Sigurðardóttir guarantees entertainment.