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by Sara Blaedel and Mark Kline, trans.
Grand Central, February 2016
310 pages
ISBN: 1455581542

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Right from the beginning, the book has an eerie cast. A secret group of worshippers of an ancient Norse religion gather in a Danish forest to initiate a young boy into manhood. But the rites are so disturbing to the young boy that he runs off into the forest, far away from his father and the other members of the group.

That's when Louise Rick, working for the Special Search Agency of the National Police Force, gets called back to her hometown, where her best friend owns the land where the boy was last seen. Louise is a bit unsteady, having just come off an extended leave due to the suicide of her boyfriend, Klaus. That his old friends appear to be a part of this secret group gives her some hope of finding answers about just what happened to Klaus, as well as to the boy.

When Louise and the police start closing in on the religious cult, its members ramp up the retribution, invoking the spirits of the ancient gods. New bodies are found in an ancient graveyard, houses are burned to the ground, and things become even more desperate, if a tad disjointed, toward the story's end.

Perhaps the biggest flaw to the book is that the reader knows exactly what happened (and who was present) in the forest that scared the boy right from the start. Had the author held that back, there might have been more of a mystery as the events unfolded. There's some suspense, but as the story winds down, it seems that even more is tacked on near the end to tie the plot back to Louise herself.

This is certainly an entertaining read, but one can imagine an even more dramatic story had the author drawn out the cult's practices from the beginning scene. As many good storytellers know, it's the unknown -- along with the reader's imagination -- that proves most haunting.

Christine Zibas is a freelance writer and former director of publications for a Chicago nonprofit.

Reviewed by Christine Zibas, March 2016

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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