Blog tour: You Can't See Me by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir, translated by Victoria Cribb

You Can't See Me

This post is part of a blog tour organised by Random Things Blog Tours. I received a free copy of the book in return for an honest review.

‘The wealthy, powerful Snæberg clan has gathered for a family reunion at a futuristic hotel set amongst the dark lava flows of Iceland’s remote Snæfellsnes peninsula.

‘Petra Snæberg, a successful interior designer, is anxious about the event, and her troubled teenage daughter, Lea, whose social-media presence has attracted the wrong kind of followers.

‘Ageing carpenter Tryggvi is an outsider, only tolerated because he’s the boyfriend of Petra’s aunt, but he’s struggling to avoid alcohol because he knows what happens when he drinks…

‘Humble hotel employee, Irma, is excited to meet this rich and famous family and observe them at close quarters… perhaps too close…

‘As the weather deteriorates and the alcohol flows, one of the guests disappears, and it becomes clear that there is a prowler lurking in the dark.

‘But is the real danger inside … within the family itself?’

You Can't See Me

In You Can’t See Me, by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir, we follow four characters – interior designer Petra, her teenage daughter Lea, hotel employee Irma, and carpenter Triggvi – over the course of a weekend at a swanky brutalist hotel in Iceland’s lava fields.

Petra and Lea’s wider family, the Snæbergs, are rich and famous, and they’ve booked out the whole hotel for a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ingólfur Hákonarson, the patriarch who originally brought the family to such prominence with his fishing business.

However, throughout the book, we’re aware that the weekend ends in tragedy, as a character is found dead the bottom of a mountain. Who is the deceased, who is responsible for their death, and why did they push them?

Well, Eva Björg Ægisdóttir – with the ever-invaluable translation of Victoria Cribb – has done it again! I devoured You Can’t See Me in less than 24 hours because I was so keen to find out who was killed, and what had happened.

With so many possible victims and killers, the story is full of twists and turns, with new information, including substantial red herrings, constantly coming to light.

While the narrative sticks to the points of view of just four people – each of whom is well-developed, and has a distinctive voice – there are quite a few family members to keep track of. They’re also fully-realised individuals, though I did have to keep a photo of the family tree handy to remind myself where some of them fitted in!

Even though Petra and Lea are so fortunate and well-off, the author manages to portray them as human and relateable.

Petra can be somewhat blind to her privilege (she may argue that she put all the work into her interior design business, but she started it with family capital), but she suffers from anxiety and is haunted by something that happened when she was a teenager.

Lea not only has to deal with the typical insecurities that come with being a 17-year-old girl, but the scrutiny that comes with being well-known. She finds herself attracting unwanted attention on social media and in the press due to the fame she never asked for.

In the wider family, there are some other characters you feel quite sorry for, as well as a number of less pleasant individuals you could easily imagine pushing someone, or being justifiably pushed off, a mountain.

Tryggvi and Irma, meanwhile, provide outsiders’ views of the family members’ personalities and behaviour over the weekend.

Tryggvi – the partner of Petra’s black-sheep aunt Oddný – is largely ignored or patronised by most of the family because he’s a tradesman, and has an emotive past of his own.

Similarly, as hotel staff, Irma is treated as furniture by the Snæbergs, and has an interesting backstory as the only child of a peripatetic, mentally unstable single mother. Despite their offhand treatment of her, she’s fascinated by the family – perhaps excessively so.

While “murder in a remote hotel with a limited pool of possible perpetrators” is a common, even classic premise for a crime novel, You Can’t See Me stands out.

For one thing, Iceland’s lava fields make for an unusual setting, which Ægisdóttir’s vivid descriptions render delightfully eerie. I loved the references to local myths and legends, and the high-tech features of the hotel added another level of novelty and spookiness.

For another, the level of detail we discover about the characters and their pasts, and how this all fits together, makes this book a particularly complex and sophisticated example of the format.

I also appreciated the occasional appearance in You Can’t See Me of Sævar and Hörður, two of the principal investigators from Ægisdóttir’s Forbidden Iceland series. While this story takes place before detective Elma’s time, and isn’t a police procedural, it was nice to see some familiar faces.

You Can’t See Me is addictive, absorbing, and complex.

You Can't See Me blog tour banner

Alice Violett's Picture

About Alice Violett

Writer of blogs and short stories, reader of books, player of board games, lover of cats, editor of web content, haver of PhD.

Colchester, UK