Dead Sweet by Katrín Júlíusdóttir

Translated by Quentin Bates

I’m delighted to be today’s stop on the blog tour for the debut novel by a former Icelandic politician. Katrín Júlíusdóttir served as Minister of Industry, Energy and Tourism and Minister of Finance and Economy, and as such she is well placed to give the inside view to the political and social sides of this thriller.

Óttar Karlsson was found dead on the beach the day after his 50th birthday. It appears to be murder. He was a civil servant and consultant, advising on the sale of government properties. He was charming, efficient and seemed to be well thought of, although he was very persuasive, usually getting his own way. His lawyer girlfriend Erla had arranged a surprise party, but he never showed up.

Policewoman Sigurdís has recently returned to work after she was involved in an incident she is having therapy for, confined to admin jobs, she yearns to be a proper detective, and persuades her boss and family friend Garðar to include her on the investigative team. It is Sigurdís who finds the hidden safe full of documents in Óttar’s apartment, and once Elin from the fraud dept stars digging into them, they paint a very different picture of Óttar and many shady business deals. Not only that, there was a US phone number on a slip of paper there, which intrigues Sigurdís. Her colleagues aren’t bothered about it – it must be from when he was at college in Minnesota. Little did they know…

Sigurdís and her brother Einar had a difficult early life, living with their aunt Halla, after their mother’s breakdown, and their abusive father left the country. It left them both traumatised, but Garðar has always looked out for them. Maybe all this has helped Sigurdís have a keen sense of when people are holding back, and assigned to follow up the family side of things while her colleagues concentrate on nailing a business enemy, all those she speaks to know more than they say, Erla; Óttar’s mother and sister too. To call it feminine intuition would be a cliche; it’s more than that, and Sigurdís has to restrain herself in order to encourage the women to say more, and what’s the story behind the US phone number. Sigurdís is a little like a dog that won’t let go with that, but her boss isn’t really interested. Colleague Unnar, whom Sigurdís is trying not to be attracted to, encourages her to follow her gut instincts.

Interspersed between the chapters, most of which are fairly short and keep the action pacy, are occasional short diary entries from various different sources. These are sufficiently creepy to add significant suspense to the already intriguing plot.

We know it’ll all come out in the end, it’s how we get there that’s so exciting. Sigurdís is such a wonderful character, a mass of contradictions, yet never diverging from her belief that she will be a good detective one day. She is a classic outsider on the inside, or insider on the outside whichever way you want to view it. Either way, she is able to put that being on the edge to good use, and has stores of enough resilience to make you proud, to get through the obstacles in her way.

I’m delighted that Dead Sweet is the first in a planned series. If subsequent books are as good as this one, I shall look forward to reading a lot more by Katrín Júlíusdóttir who, with her experience must have plenty more good avenues for Sigurdís and colleagues to investigate. I must also say a brief word to praise Quentin Bates’ translation of this one which was seamless.

Source: Review copy – thank you! Orenda Hardback, 256 pages. BUY at Blackwell’s via my affiliate link.

3 thoughts on “Dead Sweet by Katrín Júlíusdóttir

  1. Liz Dexter says:

    Oh this sounds really good, though it gave me a turn to see the lake, Tjornin, all red on the cover image! Would you say it’s a really grim, icky one or just as violent as the Arnaldur Indriðason Reykjavik murder mysteries?

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      It has little violence bar a couple of historical incidents including one to a cat, but none are very graphically described. The victim wasn’t a nice man though, nor Sigurdís’s father… Trying not to spoil too much!

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