Wednesday 30 August 2023



It’s New Year 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 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. 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 Blómkvist has a talent for attracting trouble and she’s as at home in the corridors of power as in the dark corners of Reykjavík’s underworld.

Stella Blómkvist delivers an explosive mix of murder, intrigue and surprise, and is one of Iceland's best-loved crime series.

Murder at the Residence was a really enjoyable murder mystery, set in Iceland at the time of their financial crisis. There's an intriguing blend of cases for maverick lawyer Stella Blómkvist (our protagonist shares the same name as the author, though our author's true identity is a literary secret).

A missing woman; a murder of a high profile banker with a convenient patsy for the police; an incarcerated drug smuggler; a teenage rebel with authority issues and a decades old family secret which has been buried. Stella has her hands full picking through this little lot.   

Murder, drugs, pimps, politics, social unrest, police corruption, bankers, politicians, a priest, violence on the streets, the Reykjavik criminal underworld, friendships, alliances, secrets, media pressure, and amongst the busy case load a bit of time for some sex and possibly something more.

Great setting, an intriguing main character who I would like to read more about. She's gutsy, determined and capable, I like how she isn't intimidated by powerful forces. 

The writing was smooth and an easy read, which is testament to the translator's skill (hats off to Quentin Bates). The different strands of the plot were easy to follow and I enjoyed how they all came together, with only a smidgeon of coincidence to bind a couple of the elements. It's a busy book for 270-odd pages and there's a decent pace to the story without anything ever seeming rushed.

Overall - very satisfying and one I'd recommend to fans of Icelandic crime fiction.

One minor gripe, Stella's car - a Merc - is constantly referred to as a silver steed. I was irritated by the repetition of the phrase by the third occurrence. Another ten or so occasions just managed to properly annoy me. Why not call a car a car sometimes?

4 stars from 5

Read - August, 2023

Published - 2023

Source - review ARC from publisher Corylus Books

Page count - 270

Format - paperback

Monday 28 August 2023



Translator, Quentin Bates ruminates on the mystery of this Icelandic author's identity....

The 25-year mystery of Stella Blómkvist

 How do you keep a secret like this for twenty-five years in a country where one of the national pastimes is making sure that closely-guarded secrets are blown wide open in record time?

But the writer (or writers) behind the mysterious Stella Blómkvist have managed to keep themselves out of the limelight since the first in the series appeared way back in the nineties. It’s a hell of an achievement. Even Stella’s editor claims to not know the identity of the writer they’re dealing with.

It goes without saying that there’s been plenty of speculation about who writes these sharp, compact crime stories featuring the tough, smart lawyer with her frequently morally flexible approach to life and work.

At one time there was a rumour going around that the then-Prime Minister could be the power behind the Stella Blómkvist tales, but that one doesn’t add up. The names of one or two other public figures have been mentioned as potential candidates – possibly because people assume that politicians have all the free time needed to write novels when they should be working.

It doesn’t help that Iceland is a remarkably literate country. There’s no shortage of possibilities. So let’s narrow it down… The books have been appearing since the late nineties. In fact, the first Stella story appeared in the same year that Arnaldur Indriðason’s first novel was published, that’s back when there was nothing cool in Iceland about crime fiction. How times have changed. These days you can hardly throw a brick in Reykjavík without hitting a crime writer.

Before you ask, no, I don’t believe it’s likely that Arnaldur is Stella...

But whoever’s behind Stella has been doing this for 25 years, so it’s likely to be someone in their fifties or older. This is a person who knows their history and literature – and who also knows their onions when it comes to hard-boiled crime fiction.

There’s hardly a writer in Icelandic who hasn’t at some point or other been suspected of being Stella Blómkvist – and this little country has a lot of writers, so there’s a big field to choose from. The suspects have ranged from literary heavyweights – such as Guðbergur Bergsson and Auður Haralds – to those at the crime fiction end of the spectrum.

It’s something that pops up every time a new Stella novel is published. The speculation gets into gear on social media and then spills over into the mainstream media for a while – sometimes with a few new names floated – and then it all dies away again.

To start with, I was curious. I wondered who Stella Blómkvist’s creator could be. But now, a couple of books in (now that the next in the series has also been translated ready for next year) I’ve changed my mind.
Right now, I’d prefer to Stella to stay mysterious.


Corylus Book is a new venture aiming to publish exciting new voices translated into English.


Murder at the Residence

Stella Blomkvist

28th August 2023 | Paperback/ eBook | Corylus Books | £9.99/£3.49

Available for the first time in English, Quentin Bates has translated the first book in the second wave of Stella Blómkvist novels, Murder at the Residence.

Perfect for readers of Henning Mankell, Arnaldur Indriðason, Gunnar Staalesen and Jussi


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 man responsible – maverick lawyer Stella Blómkvist isn’t so sure…

The more she investigates, the murkier it all becomes. Secrets are uncovered that 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.

Stella Blómkvist is a hard-nosed, quick-witted lawyer with a dark past and a taste for whiskey and easy money. She will be plunged her into a violent political conspiracy which threatens Iceland’s very future…


It has been twenty-five years since the first Stella Blómkvist story was published and this long-running series continues to be a consistent bestseller in Iceland. What’s remarkable is that in a tiny community such as Iceland, the identity of the Stella Blómkvist (the author) who writes these sharp, sassy tales of the exploits of Stella Blómkvist (the lawyer) has remained under wraps.

The first book appeared in 1997 and the series continued for six books up to 2006, when Stella Blómkvist seemed to have retired. Then in 2012, Stella was back, angrier, more mature and better formed as a character in a continuation of the series. The latest appeared in 2022, bringing the total to thirteen to date.


Corylus Book is a new venture aiming to publish exciting new voices translated into English.

There has been endless speculation, and longstanding rumours that Stella is a leading politician, a well-known public figure, a much-loved children’s author. There’s hardly a writer in Iceland who hasn’t at some time or other been suspected of being Stella.


Quentin Bates (or Gráskeggur ‘grey beard’ as he’s affectionately known in Iceland) is one of a handful of British authors writing Scandi Noir set in Iceland, and who has a deep understanding of the country and its people. Having lived there for long periods and being married to a local for forty years has given him a deep insight into and affection for Iceland, all of which makes him more qualified than most to write about Iceland.

He’s one of the founders, with Yrsa Sigurdardóttir and Ragnar Jónasson, of the Iceland Noir crime fiction festival. As well as his own fiction, he has become increasingly busy in the last few years as the translator of Lilja Sigurðardóttir, Sólveig Pálsdóttir, Ragnar Jónasson and Óskar Guðmundsson – and now the mysterious Stella Blómkvist.

For further information, please contact Emily Burns | PR Director | 078709787611