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by Camilla Grebe and Åsa Träff, tranlated by Paul Norlen
Free Press, July 2012
315 pages
ISBN: 1451654596

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Though many Swedish writers build suspense out of the psychological states of characters under stress, it generally is within the context of an investigation being conducted by police or journalists, one that may require delving into family or community relationships that are not what they appear. Grebe and Traff have done something different, using a familiar motif — a woman in danger, at the mercy of a malign force she cannot see.

Siri Bergman is not well, a fact that would come as a surprise to her patients. She is an almost compulsively competent psychologist who treats patients in a small practice that she shares with her close friend, Aina, their older colleague, Sven Widelius, and an efficient office manager. Yet when she goes home to her cottage in the woods at night, she dreams about her dead husband and is so afraid of the dark that she sleeps with all the lights blazing. Strange things begin to happen, but at first Siri wonders if it's all in her head, until one of her patients turns up dead, leaving behind what seems to be a suicide note that implies Siri's therapy led to the act.

The reader knows Siri is not imagining things. We catch glimpses of her enemy's state of mind, blaming her for something unspecified, acting on some vindictive and twisted impulse. We also are party to her interviews with patients, an assortment of people going through their own traumas, each of whom could be her tormentor. Gradually, we learn about Siri's relationship with her husband, and the secret guilt she carries about his death.

Though in some ways the story is a familiar one — a woman is being threatened by an unseen danger, isolated by her fear and by the fact that anyone in her inner circle might be harboring a secret animosity — the authors have done a graceful job of weaving Siri's story together into an atmospheric story, translated smoothly by Paul Norlen.

Readers who are likely to find themselves turning the pages quickly to find out how it will all turn out should be aware that the publisher has included a chapter of second book in the series at the back as a teaser.

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

Reviewed by Barbara Fister, July 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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