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Sunday, June 12, 2016

Midwinter Blood by Mons Kallentoft---Chilling Engrossing Thriller

Midwinter BloodMidwinter Blood by Mons Kallentoft
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My first experience reading this author was as a GoodReads winner of the third of his five books in the Malin Fors series. That was way back in 2013! Upon finishing Autumn I ordered the first and second book in the series, as at that time there were only the three. It has taken until now for me to unearth this, the first in the series.

Although the Autumn Killing had hooked me on Malin and her life and work as a detective in Sweden, I noted in my review at the time that there were aspects of her approach to her work and her relationships at work as well as parts of her life which probably would have been clearer if I'd started at the beginning. Having done that now, I think that is true though not essential, since the writing and action soon grab you in both books.

The author uses so many different ways to put the reader in the place of the crime--from his almost painter like descriptions of the various types of housing found in this city, to the colors of the roofs, sidings, and shutters upon them. His descriptive language of the curtains, furnishings, carpets in the various homes to the bone chilling cold of a lengthy stretch of sub zero weather on a frozen wind blown plain place the reader squarely in the scenes. One feels the sudden warmth of the inside of the car or the entrance into a building as surely as being there. The crunch of the grit thrown on pathways to prevent falling on the icy pavement and the danger of driving across an icy lake or down a dark narrow road, alternately accelerating and slowing to prevent going off into a rut alongside are very real. The scenes are eerie and atmospheric even before the sight of an obese, horribly slashed and mutilated naked body hanging from an isolated oak tree is introduced.

Once seen, however, the solution of the crime becomes all consuming. Malin, a divorced, lonely, confused 30 something mother of a 13 year old is as competent and confident an investigator as she is an insecure divorcee, unsure of how and why her marriage failed, and an at sea mother, aren't we all, of a teenaged daughter with her first serious boyfriend. Her coworkers are also major characters in the tale and throughout the writing the author develops their characterizations so that they are as well known as Malin.

If that group of characters in the police headquarters are the white hats, Kallentoft continues to people the story with a number of equally well developed gray hats and a number of black hats, too. There is the brute, Cornerhouse-Kalle, long dead but whose prior existence permeates the lives no only of his murdered son but also many of the other of the less affluent section of the city. The daughter who has managed to pull together a life for herself and her son that is fairly normal and whole. A woman, widowed and living with her three sons and their families, in an isolated mini-town they've drawn around themselves. Two teenaged boys who have bonded in a sort of brotherhood and who have become a handful for the mothers who have tried to raise them single-handedly and the school, whose principal has tried to guide and discipline them. Despite the best attempts they have become 15 year old bullies who tormented the murdered man and may have gone too far.

As Malin and her team weave through and around these characters the voice of the dead man is heard at various times speaking to Malin though she cannot hear, speaking to others of the dead that surround him and speaking to some of the living who are being investigated. But soon the reader becomes attuned to the fact that there is more than one silent speakers and that this new voice is NOT of the murdered man but rather of the murderer!

Still with all the investigation and the silent speakers it is not until the last 50 pages that it becomes clear who has done this unspeakable thing and the fact that there is more than one maniacal beast in this menagerie.

Having closed the book on this case with Malin, I have already opened the next one, Summertime Death. Which brings me to a final note--these are Swedish novels translated into the English. I believe there are only five books to the series but I've found varying English titles for them. I suspect there may be titles in England that have different names here in the States. That confusion makes it a bit difficult to buy the books. For example, I have found this book titled Midwinter Sacrifice and Savage Spring has appeared as Spring Remains. Summertime Death is alternatively titled Water Angels. I'm not sure how to find which are two titles for the same book, since even Amazon has several English language titles that I believe are actually only one book.

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