Murder at the Residence by Stella Blómkvist: explosive mix of murder, intrigue and thrilling twists – book review –

For twenty-six years, a mysterious Icelandic author has been thrilling and chilling crime fans with a bestselling book series starring a smart and sassy lawyer with a powerful sense of justice.
Murder at the Residence by Stella BlómkvistMurder at the Residence by Stella Blómkvist
Murder at the Residence by Stella Blómkvist

The real identity of Stella Blómkvist – the name of both the fearless fictional lawyer and her creator – is still unknown despite rumours which have pointed to a leading politician, a well-known public figure and even a much-loved children’s author. In fact, there is hardly a writer in Iceland who hasn’t at some point been suspected of being Stella, and even a hit Stella Blómkvist TV series has not unearthed the writer.

The first book of a series appeared in 1997, paused after 2006, and then dramatically returned in 2012 with a better formed, angrier and more mature Stella than her previous persona.

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And now Murder at the Residence, the first of the second wave of Stella Blómkvist novels, has been translated into English for the first time by Quentin Bates, one of only a handful of British authors writing Scandi Noir thrillers set in Iceland, and published by Corylus Books, a new name in translated novels.

It’s New Year in 2009 and Iceland is still reeling from the effects of the financial crash when a notorious financier is found beaten to death after a high-profile reception at the President’s residence. The police are certain it’s an open and shut case and that they have the killer... or do they?

Determined to get to the truth, maverick lawyer Stella Blómkvist isn’t so sure. A stripper disappears from one of city’s seediest nightspots, and nobody but Stella seems interested in finding her. A drug mule cooling his heels in a prison cell refuses to speak to anyone but Stella... although she’s never heard of him. And an old man makes a deathbed confession and request for Stella to find the family he lost long ago.

With a sharp tongue and a moral compass all of her own, Stella has a talent for attracting trouble and she is as much at home in the corridors of power as in the dark corners of Reykjavík’s underworld.

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And as she investigates, it all starts to get murkier. Secrets are uncovered which powerful people want to keep hidden, and a seedy trail of sex, murder and blackmail leads Stella into a twisted maze of ruthless corruption at the very heart of government itself.

Hard-nosed and quick-witted, Stella has her own dark past, and a taste for whisky and easy money, but she will soon be plunged into a violent political conspiracy that threatens Iceland’s very future.

Blómkvist delivers an explosive mix of murder, intrigue and thrilling twists and turns as the tough, confident and acutely intelligent Stella – who often gets involved in cases which she is convinced are being mishandled by the police – finds herself knee-deep in corruption and danger.

With both the police chief and the ruthless gang leaders unhappy that the caustic-tongued Stella is digging into Reykjavík’s shadowy crime world, the stakes are high for a young woman lawyer who is determined to bravely challenge powerful figures in what is essentially a man’s world.

Scandi Noir with a steely female edge and the darkest of Icelandic humour!

(Corylus Books, paperback, £9.99)