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by Helen Tursten and Laura A. Wideburg, trans.
Soho , January 2014
306 pages
ISBN: 1616950102

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Irene Huss first encountered Sophie Malmborg as a child, a strangely silent girl who had been in her stepfather's house shortly before it burned to the ground with him inside. Though it's not entirely clear what happened, police believe the stepfather, an unsuccessful writer and a heavy drinker, had passed out in bed with a lit cigarette. Irene had only recently joined the Göteborg police force as an inspector, aware of the misgivings of her supervisor, who wasn't convinced that women were cut out for police work, particularly women with small children. By the time Sophie's path crosses Irene's again, fifteen years later, the detective has proven herself as a professional and her young children are just about old enough to leave the nest. Sophie has become a successful dancer and choreographer and her new work, "The Fire Dance," is about to debut when she goes missing. Three weeks later, her body is found in the rubble of a burned warehouse. Where had she been during those weeks? And who left her to die in that fire?

As Irene goes about her investigation, she learns that Sophie was just as odd as an adult as when she was a child, stiff and socially awkward but eloquent in the art of dance. The forensic evidence is less informative than the ashes of family relationships: Sophie's vain and shallow mother, her brother Frej who had taken photographs of fire to inspire his sister's dance, and the lingering question of what really happened on the day that the quiet girl had stopped by her stepfather's house just before it went up in flames. Irene also explores the relationships among the arts community, inadvertently introducing her daughter to a new passion (and giving the author a chance to gently poke fun at popular crime writers).

This police procedural, like others in the series, avoids high drama and angst. Irene's family life is refreshingly normal. There is no ringing critique of society or call for social justice in these pages, but rather a realistic portrayal of police doing their jobs, the truth uncovered bit by bit as what happened to the socially inept but artistically expressive victim emerges by painstaking work as well as a bit of plot-stretching luck. Though not for fans of page-turning thrillers or for readers who prefer more grit with their crime, this latest entry in the series will be a quiet pleasure for those who appreciate the novelty of a detective who has a happy domestic life, even though she knows violence often begins at home.

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

Reviewed by Barbara Fister, January 2014

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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