Frozen Moment, by Camilla Ceder
Frozen Moment is the debut novel of Swedish writer Camilla Ceder. Born in 1976, a social worker as well as an author, Ceder lives in Gothenburg. Fruset ögonblick (Swedish title) was published in 2009 in Swedish, and in the fall of 2010 her second book, Babylon, will be published in Swedish.
The main protagonist in Camilla Ceder's books is Inspector Christian Tell – a team worker who has good relations with his people, is highly intelligent and driven, yet quite fallible and in some ways ordinary. In many ways I view him as a mix of about equal parts of Ake Edwardson’s Erik Winter, Gunnar Staalesen’s Varg Veum and Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander. Another key character in Frozen Moment is Seja Lundberg, a journalism student who is somewhat lonely, very curious and untraditional, and a free spirit.
The story pushes off with a brutal murder. The owner of a car repair business is found dead. He has been shot in his head and his lower body is crushed by a car that has driven over it repeatedly. The investigation is headed by Inspector Christian Tell. The investigators quickly find that the wife of the man had been away on vacation and could not have done it. There are some traces of evidence at the murder scene, but there is very little to go on, and as the police run down the trails of what little evidence they have, very little comes of it.
A second man is murdered in a very similar fashion. Again there are few traces of the killer. Tell and his team start to look for a connection between the victims, thinking that there must be something that links them, and that if they dig deep enough they will be able to find it.
Meanwhile, Seja Lundberg, a peripheral witness in the first murder case, thinks a long-unsolved mystery may hold the key to the crimes. Inspector Christian Tell is attracted to Seja, but knows he should keep his distance, as she is a witness, but he doesn’t. Even so he has a feeling something isn’t quite what it seems, relative to her presence at the crime scene. However, she is lonely and fascinating; he longs for love, and ultimately falls hard for her.
Frozen Moment is a well-plotted and interesting crime fiction novel, well translated into English by Marlaine Delargy. The cover of my copy of the book proclaims `Move over Wallander..' Camilla Ceder is not quite there yet – and I guess one shouldn’t blame her for the marketing – but she has written a solid, intriguing, and somewhat suspenseful police procedural that holds considerable promise for more good work to come.
Frozen Moment is a novel with a very distinct sense of place - very evocative and atmospheric, with quite well-developed characters, a good understanding of and ability to communicate angst and inner thoughts, and good side stories. Even though it takes a little while to suck you in, the book is entertaining and the plot has some twists that are quite original and unexpected. Camilla Ceder may not yet be a Helene Tursten, Mari Jungstedt, Camilla Lackberg or Liza Marklund, but overall Frozen Moment is a crime fiction debut novel well worth reading, from an author worth watching!
Midwinter Blood (aka Midwinter Sacrifice), by Mons Kallentoft
Midwinter Blood is the first book in a new series of Swedish crime fiction. This series, written by Mons Kallentoft, introduces a unique and very interesting Swedish detective: Malin Fors of the Linköping police.
Malin Fors is an intriguing and complex heroine – she is tough, has had serious problems in her marriage and is now divorced. She also has a problematic relationship with her daughter, and tends to drink too much. She is mostly unbalanced and on the edge. I tend to think of her as a blend: one part Irene Huss, one part Inspector Winter and one part Harry Hole. She is talented, ambitious, tough, smart and unpredictable. She listens and ponders:
'An investigation consists of a mass of voices, the sort you can hear, and the sort you can't. You have to listen to the soundless voices, Malin. That's where the truth is hidden.'
Mons Kallentoft(born April 15, 1968) is a Swedish journalist and writer.
- Pesetas (2000)
- Marbella Club (2002)
- Fräsch, frisk och spontan (2005)
b) The Malin Fors series:
- Midvinterblod (2007) Midwinter Sacrifice / Midwinter Blood - 2011/2012
- Sommardöden 2008
- Höstoffer 2009
- Vårlik 2010
- Den femte årstiden 2011
In Midwinter Blood, a man is found hanging in a tree in the middle of the winter in Sweden. He is very beaten up and was most likely murdered, possibly in a ritual of some kind. We follow Malin Fors as she doggedly investigates this difficult case, first seeking to determine the identity of the deceased. Then the investigation progresses into the life of the murdered man – including his very strange and tangled relationships. He was, it seems, a bit of a loner and a man harassed by many and liked by few.
The investigation is thorough and very interesting to read. Midwinter Sacrifice in some ways may be viewed as opening up and shining a light on the inner workings of a seemingly peaceful social democratic and egalitarian Swedish small town; it shows the hidden life under the picturesque surface. Gradually the investigation reveals that the dead man was much damaged and that he played a role in an earlier, very tragic event. We also learn more about a group of strange, quite destitute people living outside the city.
The author uses supernatural-like elements to great effect in this book. I usually don’t like “whispering voices” or similar devices in crime fiction books, but this, I suppose, is a matter of taste. Mons Kallentoft writes these sequences in a different prose, and creates effects that are peculiar, esoteric, and almost dreamlike.
I liked Midwinter Blood (or Midwinter Sacrifice, as it is also known as) – it is an intriguing exploration of evil; this is not a new theme in crime fiction exactly, but Kallentoft manages to penetrate deep enough into its origins and into some pretty cold hearts to make the plot plausible. The investigation is very interesting and the ending quite satisfactory and very suspenseful. Moreover, Kallentoft is an outstanding writer, and the translation is excellent too. Also, the character descriptions are very good, and his descriptions of the settings and the wintery Swedish landscape very evocative. So, as you understand, I enjoyed Midwinter Blood and I also very much enjoyed reading about Malin Fors. She is an interesting character that I look forward to meeting again!
Reviews of Midwinter Sacrifice:
“Mons Kallentoft has realized that the language in a mystery story does not have to be one-dimensional and totally focused on suspense. His first novel about Linköping police officer Malin Fors is definitely one of this spring’s highlights.” — Svenska Dagbladet
“The action takes place in Linköping, a town surrounded by snow-covered plains that could have come from the Coen Brothers movie, Fargo, although with different overtones. (...). Kallentoft shifts the perspective ever so slightly, to a different language, a different mood. Only just enough so that one feels lost. It’s a new territory, that Linköping where Malin Fors lives.” — Lotta Olsson, Dagens Nyheter
“More very impressive input from another Scandinavian writer with something refreshingly different to say and with a different way of saying it . . . the background of Sweden in the grip of a cruel and punishing winter is brought vividly to the page. His illustration of the complex character of his heroine is also impressive . . . An impressive book.” —Tangled Web
Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End, by Leif GW Persson
Leif Gustav Willy Persson
Born 12 March 1945 in Stockholm, Persson is a Swedish criminologist and novelist.
- Grisfesten, 1978
- Profitörerna, 1979
- Samhällsbärarna, 1982
- Mellan sommarens längtan och vinterns köld, 2002 (Between Summer's Longing and Winter's Cold, 2010)
- En annan tid, ett annat liv , 2003
- Linda - som i Lindamordet, 2005
- Faller fritt som i en dröm, 2007
- Den som dödar draken (Den som dreper dragen ), 2008
- Den döende detektiven, 2010
This is an interesting Swedish crime fiction novel; a book that to some extent is a cult novel in Sweden, and that has attracted much attention because it provides a possible explanation for the assassination of Prime Minister Olof Palme in February 1986. The author, Leif GW Persson, is a professor of criminology at Rikspolisstyrelsen (National Police Board) in Sweden and one of Sweden’s bestselling crime fiction writers. Some believe the explanation to be the truth or close to the truth, others that it is completely misleading. Be that as it may – this is a book of fiction based on an actual event, and as such doesn’t need to be true. Instead, it needs to be entertaining and fun to read, and that it is, and more.
The intriguing and somewhat lyrically named story – deliciously told, with lots of humor and with live, fallible and flawed characters – starts with the apparent suicide of a young American, John Krassner, visiting Stockholm. Krassner was working on a book detailing the exploits of his uncle, Col. John Buchanan, an OSS agent in the years following WWII. The young man has seemingly fallen from a window in a student dorm, and his loose shoe killed a little dog taken for an evening stroll by its owner. Had the man been Swedish, the case might have stopped there. But he wasn’t – he was an American. So, to be on the safe side, a small investigation is launched. As it turns out, the search of his room reveals a few strange things. Even so, the case is classified as a suicide.
Then, by accident, police inspector Lars Martin Johansson and his colleagues get involved in the case. And as Johansson starts to look into it, he unearths more than he bargained for, and a larger and quite complex context for the apparent suicide quickly emerges. There is seemingly a huge puzzle surrounding the event – a puzzle that involves international espionage, attempted cover-ups, greed, and other ingredients. A high-ranking Swedish politician known by the code name "Pilgrim" features prominently in the puzzle. Also, several factors seem to point towards incompetent police work and possibly behind the scenes involvement and disinformation by Sweden’s secret police. The deeper Johansson looks, the more he sees that simply doesn’t add up the way it is supposed to.
Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End is at the same time fascinating and shocking. We embark on a journey deep into the underbelly of the Swedish police force, and meet lazy, incompetent and perverse police officers concerned mostly with position, power, pay, comradeship, drinking and sex. We meet cynical politicians and spin masters in controlling positions.
It’s a dark novel and a dark journey which not only seems very realistic but also masterfully recreates the blanket of uncertainty, the multiple ways insights get lost in huge and complex organizational environments where most actors have their own agendas. Fortunately there is also sarcasm, black satire, dark humor, mind boggling insights, and dialogues that make you laugh out loud. It is a wonderful novel, a riveting anti-procedure police procedural, a psychological drama, and an adventurous journey into a murky landscape we can perhaps only hope doesn’t exist but most likely does. The publication of Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End by Leif GW Persson is one of the major crime fiction events of 2010!
“Laced with irony and satire . . . Reminiscent of Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson in its toughness . . . Persson does a fine job of pitting one desperate soul against another in a philosophically charged tale worthy of Ingmar Bergman—but with lots more guns.” —Kirkus (starred)
“A brilliant political thriller.” —Der Tagesspiegel
“One of the best Swedish crime novels of all time.” —Expressen
“One of the most exhaustive investigations ever to have been written about. A plot full of suspense, a great adventure, and a philosophical view of the dark and painful sides of life.” —Il Giornale di Vicenza
“Leif GW Persson's big lush novel is a tale of mystery and intrigue and murder. .. From a country known for terrific crime novelists, Sweden's great crime writer Leif GW Persson brilliantly takes the reader into a world of fascinating mystery and secrets.” —Joseph Wambaugh