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Books 23-24: Midwinter Sacrifice and The Point of Rescue

Book 23: Midwinter Sacrifice (Malin Fors Book #1).
Author: Mons Kallentoft, 2007. Translated from Swedish by Neil Smith, 2011.
Genre: Crime. Police Procedural. Nordic Noir. Slight Magical Realism.
Other Details: Hardback. 440 pages.

In the early hours of a particularly cold February night the naked and badly beaten body of an obese man is found hanging from a lone oak tree on the Östergötland plains outside of the city of Linköping, Sweden. Malin Fors, a young superintendent with the Violent Crime Squad is assigned to the case. Along with her colleagues, she must first track down the identity of the man and then discover his murderer (or murderers) and the motive.

This was a strong opening for this acclaimed crime series. Kallentoft has a very sparse, bleak style that certainly suited both story and setting. The pacing is fairly slow, reminiscent of Henning Mankell's police procedurals where one gets a sense of how methodical real crime investigations are. I also appreciated how he managed to give character sketches of the police characters, capturing their personal lives in small vignettes including Malin's relationship with her thirteen-year old daughter, Tove.

I placed a magical realism tag on this for the author's use of the corporally-challenged spirit of the murder victim sharing his after-life experiences and commentary on the unfolding case. It was an unusual touch and did work well in this context.

Book 24: The Point of Rescue (Spilling CID #3).
Author: Sophie Hannah, 2008.
Genre: Psychological Thriller. Police Procedural.
Other Details: Paperback. 464 pages.

Sally Thorning is watching the news with her husband when she hears a familiar name - Mark Bretherick. The year before when a business trip was cancelled at the last minute Sally had been desperate for a break from her demanding career and caring for her young family. She didn't tell her husband of the change and instead booked herself a secret holiday. She expected to just relax for the week and then she met a man - Mark Bretherick. As the news continues all the details are the same: where he lives, his occupation, the names of his wife and child. Yet the man on the news is someone Sally has never seen before . The news is reporting that his wife and child are dead. Sally struggles with her knowledge, frightened to say anything in case her secret affair is revealed. She tries to investigate herself and naturally places herself in danger.

Well Sophie Hannah did it to me again! In a good way mind you as in this third outing for Spilling CID (and the 5th I've read) I was totally gripped by the storyline with its many twists and turns. Sally isn't the most sympathetic of protagonists, which is why the inclusion of Hannah's cast of police characters, including Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer, is welcome. The ending was totally unexpected and yet when I thought back over the narrative the breadcrumbs of clues were there.

This was published in the USA as 'The Wrong Mother' and was also adapted for UK's ITV as a mini-series. It's getting a re-run next week and I'll be very interested to see how they handle aspects of the plot given that in a visual medium identity is harder to conceal than on printed page.
Tags: crime fiction, magical realism, murder mystery, police drama, thriller, translation
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