Why Did You Lie? by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

imageA journalist on the track of an old case attempts suicide. An ordinary couple return from a house swap in the states to find their home in disarray and their guests seemingly missing. Four strangers struggle to find shelter on a windswept spike of rock in the middle of a raging sea. They have one thing in common: they all lied. And someone is determined to punish them…

So I think I have found one of my favourite books of the year.  A complete surprise, as it’s not an author I’ve read before and I didn’t know what to expect, but I think it’s fair to say I have been completely blown away.

It starts with the characters, all of whom are so well drawn I felt I knew them by the end of the book.  Each of them felt different and real.  They had complex personalities, habits and quirks (good and bad), something I think it’s hard to do when there are multiple narrations going on at the same time.  And each was dealing with curveballs unexpectedly thrown at them by life (or nature in the case of those trapped on the spike of rock), making their stories interesting outside of the murder plot.

Then there is the setting – I am not sure I’ve read a book set in Iceland before – but the cold, the snow, the sea, all made it feel claustrophobic and not somewhere I would want to be trying to escape a killer.  It felt dark and oppressive, especially when you add in the police’s attitude – it can only be described as misogynistic, meaning women weren’t being listened to and assumptions to behaviours were being made.

And finally there was the way the story was told.  Each chapter laid out a different part of each characters story but they were all taking place within a few days of each other, which threw me off at first until I realised what was happening; more importantly it means it’s hard for the reader to put the pieces together.  You have to ask yourself what has happened, what is to come.  I did finally figure it out (a game I always play with this type of book) but it wasn’t far from the end and it felt like a lightbulb going of.

O.k. so that maybe wasn’t so finally as I need to add that Why Did You Lie? is well written, very well translated, and has a great pace.  I could not put it down and – almost a week later – am still thinking about it.  I’ll be looking for more books by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, even if I may never be able to pronounce her name.  Loved this book – highly recommended.


Please note: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.

  1. This sounds like a very interesting story so it’s going on my list. It’s always nice to find new authors who are really great!


    1. It really is. I feel like I should have heard of her sooner though…can’t believe she isn’t more well known. I will have to be an advocate!

      1. yeah the same. i read this book a long time ago. it was actually one of the books that made me love reading. im absolutely in love with this book.

        yeah i wish she was known more

  2. I won’t be pronouncing the name anytime soon but this sounds fantastic! I’ve been seeing more and more books with Icelandic settings lately and they’ve been tempting me. This sounds like a good one to start with.

    1. It really is worth a read. On a plus side they give pronunciations at the beginning of the book…just not for the author. Is it strange that I now want to go to Iceland?

  3. Can’t say I’ve heard of this one before, but I do like the sound of it – must take a closer look! 🙂

    1. I hadn’t either but so glad I requested a review copy. Just left me buzzing.

  4. I haven’t read this one but I’ve read a few of her other books and been very impressed by them. She always manages to get so much atmosphere into them – sometimes with a supernatural edge, which would normally put me off, but she does it so well. Must look out for this one…

    1. I feel cheated that I haven’t heard of her before now. I will be reading more. So impressed!

  5. It’s said Ear-sa. Lovely name. Don’t know about the surname though… I only know this as I met her at Bloody Scotland a few weeks ago! She is gorgeous and chic, and very kind and friendly. I started my first book by her, which I’d actually had for ages, the other day, “Someone To Watch Over Me.” I’m about halfway through but it’s fantastic, and has a supernatural touch to it (v creepy!) I’m glad I met her, as it’s pushed me into reading an author I know is going to be a favourite. She’s a real talent!

    1. Thank you. I had no idea. So cool that you met her. This book wasn’t supernatural but I had another person comment other books did have that. I bet she does it well. I can’t wait to read more.

      1. I’m the same! I’m whizzing through this one, even though it’s 400-500 pages. Some people aren’t happy mixing crime fiction with supernatural touches – like James Oswald’s books – but I think if you leave it ambivalent, so it could be all someone’s imagination, it works. I rather like a bit of spookiness, especially in winter reading! You should start going to book festivals or crime fiction festivals, then you can get to meet authors – I don’t know where you live but there are so many there’s bound to be one near you – and some of them will give passes to bloggers if you get in touch and say you plan to report on it!

        1. There are probably things I should go to. Life always seems to get away from me though. I have set an early new year resolution to try to get to things. Just need to get organised!

  6. […] Why Did You Lie? by Ysra Sigurdardottir, a new contender for my book of the year and a new author for me. Set in Iceland, this was a claustrophobic read that had me turning the pages. […]

  7. I love the sound of this one. The setting of Iceland, the isolated feel, and that cover… definitely sets a tone and makes me wonder. I definitely want to give this one a try!

    1. I can’t recommend this one highly enough. Loved it.

  8. […] of their identical twins survived a tragic accident. I liked it a lot but loved my second book, Why Did You Lie? by Ysra Sigurdardottir. Set in Iceland, this was a really clever piece of crime fiction with seemingly unconnected people […]

  9. This author (BTW, her name is spelled “Yrsa” ot “Ysra”) is a regular on the bestseller lists in Iceland. Another Icelandic author you might like if you liked her is Arnaldur Indridason, who also writes crime novels and has been translated into English.

    1. Thank you for letting me know – I have changed the spelling (after trying so hard to get it right the first time!). I will check out your recommendation- if they are even half as good I’ll be happy.

  10. […] Why Did You Lie? by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, the first book I’ve read set in Iceland but hopefully not the last if this clever story with it’s claustrophobic setting is anything to go by […]

  11. […] So to, hopefully, start 2017 well I have picked The Silence of the Sea by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, in part because I have had it on loan from the library for over a month and need to return it but mainly because I loved the first of her books I read earlier this year – Why Did You Lie?. […]

Let me know what you're thinking...