Carole Tyrrell worked in the theatre for nearly 10 years and was always fascinating by the way death and the supernatural formed many of the greatest and most enduring works. She has read crime fiction for many years and enjoys the broad range of the genre.
Liza Marklund was an investigative reporter for fifteen years as evidenced in her recreation of a busy Swedish newsroom and its reporters, as their newspaper prepares to concede to a digital only edition.
The action takes place over four days in early June with an epilogue six months later. It opens with the burial of a body, the ninth victim of a serial killer’s spree, and its significance will only come out at the novel’s end.
Annika Bengtzon is having her latest session with her psychologist in which she discusses her dysfunctional family background. Barbro, her resentful mother who likes a drink or two and Birgitta her younger sister who she hardly ever sees are part of her problem. Annika is a successful reporter and Birgitta seems to be happy working as a check-out girl. But Annika has a secret. The abusive relationship with her boyfriend; Sven ended when he fell into a blast furnace after chasing her with a knife through the local Ironworks. But was it an accident and why does it still haunt her?
This is against the backdrop of the major trial of a murderer that Annika helped bring to justice through her articles, Ivar Berglund. Nina Hoffman, police officer and criminologist, who worked with Annika on it is appearing for the prosecution and is becoming convinced that he may be responsible for other murders all over Europe.
Annika begins work on a cold case, the murder of Josefin Liljeberg, a stripper whose body was found in a Jewish cemetery. It was the first case on which she worked and, although a man called Gustav Holmerud confessed to it and 4 other murders and was convicted, he’s now changed his mind. This was a case in which Annika went undercover as a stripper in Josefin’s strip club and anonymously tipped off police about the owner, Joachim’s, shady financial dealings.
Then Barbro calls.
Birgitta has gone missing. She didn’t come home after work and Barbro confides her suspicions about Steven, Birgitta’s partner. Annika starts probing and discovers that her sister has left her job but at her new workplace no-one knows of her. She then finds two text messages on her phone apparently from Birgitta begging for her help; but are they really from her?
Meanwhile Nina has DNA evidence that Berglund had an accomplice and it’s someone very close to him. After visiting his sister in an institution she knows who it is but they’re supposed to have died in a car crash twentyyears earlier. And they’re out for revenge on Annika.
Meanwhile Thomas, Annika’s embittered ex-husband with his prosthetic hand or hook, as he calls it lurks in the background watching her. He posts misogynistic messages online as Gregorius.
This is a book with two main themes; violence against women, whether domestic or otherwise, society’s attitude to it and how the past can trap you. Thomas with his hand as a permanent reminder makes Barbro resentful and embittered and Annika has to face up to how Sven really died.
The book has a multi-layered plot and, at first, there were so many characters with their own stories and place in the narrative that it was hard to keep track of the action. I found Thomas to be an unsympathetic character who was steeped in bitterness. At times it felt as if there was too much going on and Birgitta seemed to get lost in the other events. This is the eleventh in the series and I did feel at some points that it would have been helpful to read the previous one first.
However, it was a gripping novel in which loose ends were all tied up satisfactorily and everyone moved on with their lives - except Thomas.