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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

From the Coldest of Winters to a Record Hot Summer--Kallentoft Horrifies Once More in Summer Death

Summer DeathSummer Death by Mons Kallentoft
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kallentoft continues the career of Malin Fors in this the second book of his series which takes place in a small city, Linkoping, Sweden. It is high summer and the heat is greater than any summer in recent memory. Much of the city seems empty, so many of the inhabitants have gone north to the colder areas around sea and lakes to escape the oppressive heat. Others have left to volunteer to battle the forest fires raging out of control not to far from the city center.

Not only is it too hot to do much of anything, air conditioners are failing to keep interiors cool. All who are stuck here are lethargic and in the case of Malin, bored and lonely. Her teen-age daughter is off on vacation to Bali with her father, Janne, who won the trip. Her parents, who would normally return from their new winter home in Tennarife, had decided to stay away this year and her Dad calls periodically to assure that she is keeping the plants watered while they are gone. Many of her coworkers are off on vacation with their families, although her partner, Zeke is not, nor is her immediate boss and mentor, Sven. She is worried about Sven, he has gained so much weight and is in his early 50's now. She worries that in this heat he may suffer a stroke or heart attack. Making these long hot days even more unbearable is the lack of crime--there is nothing for them to do--those who are still working in Linkoping Police Headquarters.

All of that is soon the change, however, when Malin, who is swimming at the deserted city pool --too early for it to be crowded by her fellow sweltering citizens--, receives a call from Zeke. A young teenage girl has been found, alive but naked and bloodied, in the summerhouse of a nearby park. She is awake and responsive but dazed and refuses to speak. There is no sign of her clothing and she has wounds along her legs and arms, made by a sharp instrument. Her body has been cleansed with bleach and the wounds also cleaned carefully. The police were alerted by an anonymous 911 call and there seem to be no witnesses in the area.

As they begin the investigation with very little to go on, the very next morning after the discovery of Josefin Davidsson in the summerhouse of the Horticultural Society Park a call comes in about a 14 year old girl who has gone missing. Her parents left her home alone while they went for a few days to Paris. Although they believed that she would be with her boyfriend while they were away, he has not seen her. The parents, though unable to reach her on her cell phone or on the home's landline were not particularly alarmed until they returned and could not locate her. ( I found this amazingly strange, but later in the book it appears that it is not uncommon for Swedes to leave children that young on their own.)

Once more Kallentoft uses his keen eye to describe the scenes in the countryside, at police headquarters, in the homes of the victims and of the families of the police officers. Several times he goes from kitchen to kitchen to dining room on the same morning, tracing the beginning of the day or the end of the day of the characters in the book. It is fascinating to have them brought to life through the simple things we all do when we are getting ready to leave our homes for work, or when arriving back from work or play, or when we are readying ourselves for bed. There is such an intimacy between reader and players in the tale.

He also continues the voices of the victims as they try to reach each other, their families and the investigators. In this book, the voices are truly heartbreaking, particularly in the case of the missing girl, Theresa Eckeved, who does not seem to understand where she is and why her father is not coming to her aid. And as always, there is the voice of the killer but it is eerie but vague, so once more it is not until the end of the book that one finally knows who it is and what is driving the person.

The heat, the frustration of the investigators, the suspects, the heat, the loneliness of Malin, the devastation of the fires that cannot be controlled, the oppressiveness of the heat and the investigation, all of these things start to drive the reader almost as mad as the good and bad personages in this story. The culmination is as much a relief as a mad dive into the coolness of the backyard pool or the downing of a nice cold beer.

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