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by Helene Tursten and Marlaine Delargy, trans
Soho, December 2020
392 pages
ISBN: 1641291606

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

The third police procedural featuring Embla Nyström, opens with a blizzard and a nightmare. That seems almost predictable for Scandi Noir, but in the hands of a seasoned writer (the author of the long-running Irene Huss series) we're treated to bad weather and drama, but without the unrealistic and often gory plotlines that many Nordic writers have adopted in imitation of American thrillers. Instead, we get a well-plotted, well-paced procedural with a strong protagonist who has a foot in both rural and urban Sweden.

As the book opens, Embla has a familiar nightmare that replays the night when she and her best friend Lolla were drinking at a nightclub though they were underaged. Recalled through a haze of alcohol and fear, Embla only remembers seeing men looming over her friend, a man's voice threatening to kill Embla if she told anyone what she saw. Lolla vanished, but after fourteen years Embla got a fragmented phone call and recognized Lolla's voice.

Before she can look into it, she heads north on a long-planned outing to fulfill a young friend's dream to go hunting. She's a boxer and an outdoorswoman who wonders if the boy is too young for his first hunt. As it turns out, he is distraught when her uncle who took him into the woods helps him shoot a fox. Irene couldn't join them; there's another hunt afoot. An unidentified man with elegant clothes and an expensive watch has been found shot dead in a cottage connected to a nearby guesthouse. He's not their usual customer, but it's clear he was murdered, and the guesthouse owner, an old family friend, asks Embla to come over.

A local police officer is rattled and suspicious when he finds Embla alone with the body at the crime scene, but they soon form an investigative link between Embla's usual jurisdiction, Gothenburg, and the rural district. It seems the dead man is one of three Stavic brothers, who run drugs, guns, and trafficked women in a profitable crime network. Another of the brothers has been shot dead in Gothenburg, and a third has disappeared. Embla and her colleagues need to figure out what is going on before the power vacuum is filled by gang warfare.

Meanwhile, Embla is happy to know her long-lost friend is still alive after starring in her nightmares for the past fourteen years. But where is she? And what happened all those years ago?

Tursten hasn't always been served terribly well by her various translators, but this time she has one of the best. Marlaine Delargy helps make this an excellent entry in a fresh series. Those who previously enjoyed Irene Huss's investigations will be pleased to encounter her again briefly. She's thrilled about becoming a grandmother. We can hope Embla Nyström, who hasn't yet turned thirty, will have many adventures ahead of her, long after her colleague Irene has retired.

§ Barbara Fister is an academic librarian, columnist, and author of the Anni Koskinen mystery series.

Reviewed by Barbara Fister, December 2020

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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