Dark Angel, by Mari Jungstedt

Dark Angel, Mari JungstedtDark Angel is the sixth installment of Mari Jungstedt‘s series featuring Inspector Anders Knutas and news reporter Johan Berg on the Swedish island of Gotland. Chronologically, the action in this book follows the events in the previous novel The Dead of Summer.

The action in Dark Angel starts immediately. At a large public event with over 500 guests – the opening of a new and expensive conference center where seemingly every person of note on the island is present, among them Inspector Knutas and his lovely wife – the host, event organizer Viktor Algard is killed by cyanide! Viktor Algard is a married man, but it turns out that he has asked his wife for a divorce, and that he was at the party with his new flame. What is more – the investigation soon reveals that Algard was given the deadly poison in a cocktail, and that the person that gave him the cocktail was no other than his new love.

Knutas and his team from the Gotland Police Force are soon able to identify several possible motives for the murder, as well as several suspects. However, as it turns out, things are not at all straightforward in this case. And, as the investigation moves forward, the police increasingly start to doubt their initial and more or less taken-for-granted assumption that the victim was the intended victim of the crime. If he wasn’t, then it is quite obvious who was, but the implication is that the police are essentially back to square one, and need to reassess their list of motives and suspects anew. Meanwhile, a murderer is on the loose on the island …

The plot in Dark Angel is interesting and clever, and the multiple side stories are excellently integrated with the main plot of the novel. This is especially the case with the story that TV journalist Johan Berg and his assistant Pia are working on – a story of a boy who was attacked two weeks ago outside one of Algard's clubs for teenagers. As it turns out, it’s a case that involves people very close to Inspector Knutas that will prove very challenging for this sympathetic and intriguing policeman. Dark Angel is a well plotted mystery.

Mari JungstedtI liked this evocative police procedural. Apart from the plot, it is very good in describing relationships among the characters in a dynamic and fascinating fashion. At the core is a penetrating analysis of the effects of love expressed in obsession. Also, I like the way Mari Jungstedt (see image) has created a kind of continuity between this book and the story of Karen Jacobsen, one of the police officers working with Knutas, in the previous installment of the series. The only weakness is perhaps that the solution becomes a little to obvious after a while, but even so Dark Angel is a great Swedish crime fiction, and quite suspenseful.

'Mari Jungstedt creates the special atmosphere of Nordic crime - that land of snow and ice that fires our imagination.' Jane Jakeman, Independent

The Inner Circle (A Lonely Place), by Mari Jungstedt

The Swedish TV journalist and crime fiction auhor Mari Jungstedt has written a series of crime books where the action takes place at the beautiful and quiet Swedish island of Gotland, a place for which Jungstedt seems to hold a lot of love (see our reviews of Unseen and Unspoken). In this new interesting police procedural, The Inner Circle (or A Lonely Place, as it is called in Great Britain) a ritual killing occupies centre stage.

In The inner Circle, the The Inner Circle, by Mari Jungstedt starting point is with an archeological dig site, uncovering a Viking fortification dating back over a millennium (which gives Jungstedt an opportunity to educate readers on Viking history and legends). On this site, there is an international group of some twenty young archeology students. They are a happy and fun-loving crowd, partying together every night. Then one of them, the twenty-one-year-old Martina Flochten, disappears. When her naked body is found hanging from a tree, there is every indication that she has been the victim of a ritual killing.

Inspector Anders Knutas, heading the investigator into this crime, is posed with difficult questions: What do the marks on Martina's body signify? Is there possibly a connection between Martina's death and the recent and unsolved brutal beheading of a Gotland pony? Detective Superintendent Knutas is in for some serious frustration while trying to make sense of these seemingly senseless acts!

The police, and Inspector Anders Knutas, suspect the head of the dig site, Steffan Mellgren. He is married, has a wife and four children, but even so has a reputation as a Casanova. They think it possible that he is the mysterious lover Martina was supposed to have been meeting in secret, and whom none of her fellow archaeologists have actually seen. However, this theory turns out to be slightly flawed, as Mellgren himself is later found killed in exactly the same manner as Martina. Now Inspector Knutas is back to square one.

Inspector Knutas and his team work intensely to catch the killer. Even so, more bodies turn up, all of whom have been killed and mutilated the same way.

The Inner Circle is a very good book. Mari Jungstedt integrates a dose of Scandinavian mythology and addresses current issues on Gotland as well, while still mostly keeping up a fast-paced and intricate plot as Knutas and his colleagues close in on the killer, and gradually uncover the secret that connects the victims. My only complaint is that I think there is a little too much idle talk at times. However, even so, The Inner Circle is a very enjoyable, exciting Swedish crime fiction book: dark, atmospheric, and character-driven, and with an intelligent plot at the center.

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