Book Review

Why Did You Lie to Me?

by Ýrsa Sigurðardóttir

Reviewed by Elva Simundsson

Why Did You Lie to Me?
Ýrsa Sigurðardóttir

UK: Hodder & Staughton Ltd. Publishers, 2017; first published with the title Lýgi
by Veröld Publishers, Reykjavik, 2013)

The front cover of the paperback edition of Why Did You Lie to Me? states that the author is “Iceland’s Queen of Nordic Noir”.  It’s true, there is a lot of “Nordic Noir’ happening here. The story tells three (apparently) separate dark and chilling stories of disappearances, suicides and deaths. Each of these stories are punctuated with unexplained shadowy sightings of ghosts and other shadowy figures, acts of vandalism and seemingly irrelevant messages that appear suddenly written on walls, in the possessions of a companion who appears to have met his death through misadventure or just slipped under the door of the family’s home.
I began to think: ‘nothing is as it seems’ and thoughts of one story fragment run through my mind as I read a fragment of the other sub-plots in the book, trying to connect each to the other.  Three stories within a story keep the reader guessing where this is all going. Helgi is stuck in fog on a rocky lighthouse ledge out in the North Atlantic. His overnight adventure unravels into a seemingly never-ending nightmare. Nína struggles with trying to make sense of her husband‘s apparent suicide attempt that went so horribly wrong. Nói continues to question what happened to their American house-exchange guests who have apparently disappeared into thin air  – Why did they leave clothes behind? Why is there a dead cat in the barbeque?
Ýrsa is an engineer by profession.  The stereotypical engineer is generally considered to be introverted, methodical and obsessed with detail. True, you can’t always judge a person by such a generic stereotype but bits of this stereotype fit the profile of the creator of this crime fiction.  The story is meticulously built.  The landscape and the scenes are solidly outlined. The three stories are woven separately with each built on a technically solid foundation. Bit by bit the puzzle pieces start to germinate in the reader’s mind and a pattern slowly emerges. The engineer is fitting the pieces of the separate projects into the whole.  Unlike an architect who builds a model first so the viewer can envision the big picture, this creator/engineer keeps pieces of vital information hidden from the reader. As we are drawn into a criminal investigation by Nína, who is a police officer by profession, we start to see the rather ugly facts emerge. As in any great crime fiction novel, ‘nothing is as it seems’. Ýrsa certainly knows how to make that happen between the covers of this great piece of Nordic Noir.