Ballantine Books | 2016
Holy Nordic crime fiction, Batman!
Ughhh, please just completely ignore that I started this book review with a holy batman exclamation.
If you’re a fan of the aforementioned genre, you will love this novel. Nordic crime fiction is always hit or miss for me, but this one by Camilla Grebe is a hit.
Let’s start our bookworm asses at the beginning, shall we?
An unidentified, decapitated woman is found in the bed of a moderately famous, very wealthy CEO. And he, Jesper Orre, has seemingly disappeared. He’s not a fucking magician, so what the fuck?
DI Peter Lindgren is lead detective on the case. He’s a despondent, sullen character. He has an ex-wife who hates him and a troubled teenage son, whose issues could probably be traced back to his ongoing search for a connection with his father. Only time and again, he finds that Peter has been, and always will be, more interested in his job than his family. It’s a tale as old as crime fiction itself.
Also lending us their insight is Hanne. She’s a former criminal profiler who had to leave her career behind after the effects of her early onset dementia left her unable to do her job to the best of her ability. She’s stuck in a loveless marriage with a controlling man, and can’t even trust her own mind. So, when she’s asked to consult on the case of the headless woman, she says fuck it and finds her strength to make the leap into independence, despite her illness.
I love a badass, independent woman. Hanne keeps her badass-ittude very classy and understated. And I totally aspire to that. But for now, I’m a messy swamp demon made of contradictions. But still…I’m aspiring.
Last is the perspective of the enigmatic Emma. Hers is the only POV which is told in the past, as she recounts her relationship with fiance Jasper Orre. A secret relationship, because he is her employer. Emma is sweet and naive, having gone through life being told that there is something odd about her, something different that has always made her feel alone. Until she meets Jasper and feels as though she’s found a kindred spirit.
My overwhelming urge to scream RUN BITCH RUN at Emma stayed with me through most of the book and that’s an interesting emotional level to maintain, I’ll tell you that. Sweet, poor, stupid Emma. Pinning all her hopes and dreams on a man because he makes her feel like a person who finally belongs?
You do that for yourself. You love yourself, you belong to yourself.
But, I digress…because that’s really the crux of the story: What is real love? What kind of love do we accept? When does love become an obsession? When does obsession lead to betrayal? And when does betrayal lead to anger and revenge? It’s deep, people! But I can’t really talk about it anymore without giving plot elements away.
Ultimately, the character voices in this one were strong and vivid and unique. The mystery is the body of the plot, but these characters are the heart that keeps everything working. They illicit honest emotion from the reader, with depth and attention. It is a clean and tight example of “show, don’t tell” writing and expert pacing.
Is it a thrill ride? No. I won’t lie. But it is thoughtful and poignant and emotionally addictive. The true definition of a page-turner, action-packed or not.
And let’s talk about atmosphere just for a second, because this book is making it rain (no pun intended) with its cold and bleak autumn vibes. I could feel it right through my leggings. Granted, leggings are pretty thin, but still.
This is a smart, well-plotted novel, that delivers a perfect ending of a plot-twist. I’m talking, like, a pick your jaw up off the floor, kick you in the crotch plot twist. Even for the most seasoned mystery fiction reader, the ending is evasive. Somehow you just keep missing what’s sneaking up behind you. And honestly, is there anything better than reading a book like this and being completely fooled?
“The detective story differs from every other story in this: that the reader is only happy if he feels a fool.” -GK Chesteron
Winter’s chill has descended on Stockholm as police arrive at the scene of a shocking murder. An unidentified woman lies beheaded in a posh suburban home—a brutal crime made all the more disturbing by its uncanny resemblance to an unsolved killing ten years earlier. But this time there’s a suspect: the charismatic and controversial chain-store CEO Jesper Orre, who owns the home but is nowhere to be found.
To homicide detectives Peter Lindgren and Manfred Olsson, nothing about the suave, high-profile businessman—including a playboy reputation and rumors of financial misdeeds—suggests he conceals the dark heart and twisted mind of a cold-blooded killer. In search of a motive, Lindgren and Olsson turn to the brilliant criminal profiler Hanne Lagerlind-Schön. Once a valued police asset, now marooned in unhappy retirement and a crumbling marriage, she’s eager to exercise her keen skills again—and offer the detectives a window into the secret soul of Jesper Orre.
But they’re not the only ones searching. Two months before, Emma Bohman, a young clerk at Orre’s company, chanced to meet the charming chief executive, and romance swiftly bloomed. Almost as quickly as the passionate affair ignited, it was over when Orre inexplicably disappeared. One staggering misfortune after another followed, leaving Emma certain that her runaway lover was to blame and transforming her confusion and heartbreak into anger.
Now, pursuing the same mysterious man for different reasons, Emma and the police are destined to cross paths in a chilling dance of obsession, vengeance, madness, and love gone hellishly wrong.