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by Kjell Ola Dahl and Don Bartlett, trans.
Orenda Books, October 2018
272 pages
ISBN: 1912374072

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Kjell Ola Dahl's thriller THE ICE SWIMMER is a riveting swirl through political intrigue and a series of pre-Christmas murders in a frigid Oslo. Police detective Lena Stigersand believes that the drowning of Sveinung Adeler, a minor government official, is clearly murder, yet her superiors and most of her colleagues disagree. She gets a sympathetic ear from fellow investigator Gunnarstranda—a character we have met before in Dahl's police procedurals—but hard evidence is difficult to find. Lena suspects a link between this death and that of Nina, a homeless drug addict who was killed by a subway train in the book's opening chapter. And then another murder, that of Nina's sometime boyfriend Stig, seems to be connected as well.

Lena learns that Adeler worked in a department that researched the ethics of Norwegian investments. Could what he was working on in his job be linked to his demise? Lena receives information that Aud Helen Vestgard, a Member of Parliament, had dinner with the deceased just hours before his death. Could there be connections here? When she visits Vestgard, she is met with denial, anger and outrage. Then Lena is reprimanded for bothering Vestgard. It seems that no one is telling her the truth or the whole story.

Lena becomes romantically involved with Steffen Gjerstad, a journalist who may have ulterior motives for wishing to be her lover. They begin a strange relationship, where Steffen seems to be using her as an informant, but yet denies this and Lena continues to believe him. Her life gets more and more complicated as Christmas approaches and she feels pulled toward family obligations, buying presents, preparing food for her mother. To add to her personal woes, Lena gets a diagnosis of breast cancer. She tries to ignore it and does not share this information with anyone at first. The knowledge of her disease clouds her already difficult life.

We share Lena's frustration as she tries to make others realize the connections among the three murders and the way she understands who the perpetrator must be. Lena discovers that someone is following her. When she tries to find out his identity, she is discouraged by government officials who seem to have their own agenda for wanting to watch this person. She is chased by him and loses her coat in the process of getting away. Then someone, perhaps this same person, kidnaps her and almost throws her off a cliff.

With all that is going on, Lena seems at times almost too calm. Perhaps it is for us the readers to feel the full suspense and terror of her investigation. If so, the author does an excellent job in keeping us frozen in fear for Lena's life and the outcome of the book.

§ Anne Corey is a writer, poet, teacher and botanical artist in New York's Hudson Valley.

Reviewed by Anne Corey, September 2018

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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