Cage (Reykjavík Noir 3)
Lilja Sigurðardóttir (translated by Quentin Bates)
Orenda Books, 17 October 2019
PB, e, 227pp
I'm grateful to Karen at Orenda Books for an advance copy of Cage and to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the blogtour. (I'm so pleased to be on another Orenda tour! Look at the great bloggers on the poster - and me!)
Cage is the third and final part of Sigurðardóttir's Reykjavík Noir trilogy, following Snare and Trap. The title's well chosen - not only does a cage feature, but in various ways the principal characters here are all caged.
Agla, of course, is literally imprisoned, serving time for financial chicanery (a sensitive subject in Iceland after the financial crash) and at a very low point, her lover Sonja having deserted her at the end of Trap.
Sonja herself is riding a tiger. She's now a leading figure in the drug smuggling cartel, but aware that at any moment her usefulness may end. She must keep her son Tómas on the move, in case he's located by her enemies, she's had to abandon Agla and she is continually reminded of her crimes and her guilt.
Ingimar - the lynchpin of the fraud in the earlier books - is apparently happier. He is still free and wealthy. But his marriage seems to have died on him and he resorts to increasingly frequent sessions with a woman he pays to flog him.
And María... well, María has lost her job at the public prosecutor's, her marriage has collapsed and she's scrabbling for a living as an investigative journalists, forced to rent a poky office from the right wing station, Radio Edda. The existence of Radio Edda, pumping out noxious racist memes, is a dark thread running through this book, radicalising the young and inciting some truly frightening goings on.
These are all characters you will know well if you've read the previous books, and while Sigurðardóttir delivers nothing less than a tense, nail biting thriller here, I really liked the fact that she gives them more space, more time for reflection. In this book we really see a psychologically satisfying conclusion to all the stories which braided together have made this trilogy strong.
That all takes place, of course, while María continues to seek justice, Sonja safety and Agla - perhaps - love. To a large extent these various strands are kept separate for much of the book, though the shortish chapters mean we never leave anyone alone for very long.
Cage packs a lot into into a small space. There is the continuing scandal around the aluminium market. I never quite understood what the scam was here, but that didn't really matter much. María investigates this, engaged by Agla of all people (those scenes are fun). There is the drugs theme that has run through all the books, and there is also a terrorist subplot that feels especially dangerous because we're genuinely unsure how it will turn out. I went back and reread some of those sections once I'd finished - you won't realise, reading them for the first just, just how clever Sigurðardóttir is being here.
Sigurðardóttir, and of course her translator Quentin Bates who as ever delivers clear prose that maintains just that hint of otherness, a very slight reminder that the book is about another country where they do things (slightly) differently. I like that, I don't want a translation to smooth away all the colour so that the story might be taking place anywhere.
So overall a tense and enjoyable conclusion to this trilogy which may be just a bit lighter than the earlier books and which allows all its characters to grow by the end of the story (even Ingimar does something noble, if perhaps misguided!)
For more information about the book, see the Orenda website here.
You can buy Cage from your local bookshop, or online from Hive Books, from Blackwell's, Waterstones, WH Smith or Amazon.