After being underwhelmed by the first book in this series I wasn’t exactly excited to read this successor. However as I’d bought it on special before reading the first I figured I’d at least have a go.
It is the second of what I assume is (or will be) four seasonal outings and takes place in a sweltering Swedish summer in Linköping. I know it’s not what most people first think of when imagining Scandinavian crime but Kallentoft has nailed the setting element of this novel. Long, oppressively hot summers is a subject I know a little something about and I thought the depiction was pitch-perfect. That kind of heat does take on an almost physical presence as though having actual weight, people do talk about it constantly and everyone has their idiosyncratic strategies for dealing with it. When bushfires are added to the mix, as happens here, they do cast a psychological as well as physical haze over the population as described in SUMMERTIME DEATH.
For me though the rest of the book is less successful.
Most of the town’s police are on holidays when Malin Fors is called to a strange crime scene. A naked teenage girl has been found in a local park. She is catatonic. A physical examination reveals the girl has been abused but even when she speaks again the she remembers nothing about what led up to her being found in that state. At first she, and her parents, are relieved at this but when another girl goes missing there is pressure on her to remember something that might help the missing person investigation. If I were being catty I’d say a couple of basic procedural steps at this point would have helped more than forcing the living victim into a hypnotherapy session. Good thing I’m not in a catty mood 🙂
The story meanders needlessly and wordily and is subject to more silliness and awkward plot devices than my willingness to suspend disbelief allows. There are too many forgotten tasks that no real police would actually neglect to do, too much random guesswork about potential suspects (most of which are based on some pretty spurious stereotypes) and the ending in particular is the result of a series of actions that I simply didn’t believe (though it’s impossible to discuss why without giving away too much of the plot). The fact that the entire thing is overseen by a pair of chatty ghosts is an additional negative for me, though if the amount of novels in all genres with this theme is anything to judge by it seems I am in a minority of readers not enticed by the current obsession with things paranormal.
Malin is really the only character to be well fleshed out and it is a decent characterisation though it would, in my opinion, have benefited from some tighter editing and less repetition. Every little while Malin is either drooling over the idea of a glass of tequila, obsessing about her absent parents’ dead pot plants or wondering what went wrong with her marriage. These details help build up a picture of Malin which contrasts with her more public image as a woman in control of things and so are valuable but I’m not convinced they need to be repeated quite so often.
The combination of lots of little niggling annoyances and a growing paranormal element will, I think, mean I’ll read no more of this series. It’s not so much that it’s terrible, merely that I can think of dozens of new authors I haven’t tried yet and old favourites whose work I am behind on so I don’t really need another ‘OK’ author in my reading list. I did enjoy the narration of the audio book by Jane Collingwood (I so adore having the Swedish names pronounced properly for me) but ghosts with breathy teenage girl voices are even more annoying than ghosts in italics.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Narrator Jane Collingwood
Translator Neil Smith
Publisher Hodder & Stoughton 
Length 13 hours 29 minutes
Format audio (mp3)
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