I am generally a little wary of books written by people more used to producing television scripts as the two media require very different skills but I was tempted by this book’s appearance on Raven Crime Read’s list of top reads for 2014 and I have enjoyed the one TV show that I’ve seen from this script-writing duo.
On a remote island in northern Sweden a woman is buried on the beach up to her neck. A young boy watches as the water threatens her and when those responsible for her condition disappear he runs home. A couple of decades later police trainee Olivia Rönning chooses the unsolved cold case of the purposefully drowned woman as her summer project. At the same time an alarmingly brutal series of attacks on homeless people is being investigated.
Perhaps not surprisingly, given they’ve been responsible for televising both the Martin Beck novels and Arne Dahl’s A-Unit series, the husband and wife writing team behind SPRING TIDE have produced a novel with a strong ensemble cast for their debut. Although there is not a single team responsible for either investigation Olivia is never a lone investigator, instead joined by current and former officers so that the story can unfold far more credibly than it could if left in the hands of a student. One of the few upsides to long books (this one is nearly 500 pages) is that good authors at least use the extra words at their disposal to develop their characters well and the Börjlind’s have definitely done that here. Olivia is surprisingly engaging for a 20-something (yes my prejudice is showing through there) and the depiction of her learning the tips and tools of her future trade is a good one. She is in danger though of being overshadowed by former policeman Tom Stilton whose back story is simply fascinating but I shall say no more on that issue for fear of spoilers.
There’s no getting away from the fact that the story here is pretty complicated – there are threads within threads and all manner of crossovers – but I didn’t find it difficult to follow and everything that needs to be is resolved credibly. There probably could have been one or two fewer dead ends without impacting the whole too much (except reducing the page count a bit) but I have to admit that even for someone endlessly griping about books that are too long this one doesn’t actually fit that category in that there are not huge chunks I could identify for the red pen. And it must be said that the story is totally compelling (nails may have been bitten) and the authors kept me guessing on several fronts right to the end.
Again following the tradition of the best Swedish crime novels SPRING TIDE does explore some social themes, though perhaps not with quite the same depth of Mankell, Sjöwall and Wahlöö or even Liza Marklund. Nevertheless the treatment of homeless people in modern Sweden is certainly front and centre and there are some not so subtle digs at the wealthy and their behaviour.
Not that I need another one but I’ll definitely be adding this series to my must follow list after this excellent first instalment from the writing duo. Actually it’s a trio if you consider as I do that their translator Rod Bradbury has played an equally important role in bringing the book to life for English-speaking readers. I’m always particularly impressed when even humour flows well, as evidenced by this passage in which Olivia is talking to one of the local women who was interviewed at the time of the murder
‘And then they interrogated everybody on the island and you can be sure I told them what I thought had happened.’
‘And what did you think?”
‘Satanists. Racists. Some sort of -ists that was fur sure, that’s what I told them.’
Translating linguistic humour from one language to another must surely garner extra credit.
If you’re after an intelligent, fast-paced procedural with loads of twists and terrific characters then you really ought not go past SPRING TIDE.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Translator Rod Bradbury
Publisher Hesperus Press 
Length 474 pages
Book Series #1 in the Olivia Rönning/Tom Stilton series
This work by http://reactionstoreading.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.