Category Archives: Håkan Östlundh

This Isn’t Where We Intended to Be*

Almost all relationships are founded on certain assumptions. When those assumptions change, or when something else fundamental changes, the relationship changes, too. Sometimes those changes are what a lot of people think of as positive (a new baby, a major promotion, for instance). Other changes are traumatic (a major injury, say, or the death of a loved one). When those things happen, the old rules don’t apply any more, and a new understanding has to develop. Sometimes it works well; sometimes it doesn’t. Either way, that re-writing of the rules can make for a lot of awkwardness and strain.

And that’s part of what makes it a solid and useful plot thread for a crime novel. Major changes in relationships can add character development, too. And they’re realistic, so they can add authenticity to a book.

For example, one of the major characters in Agatha Christie’s Taken at the Flood (AKA There is a Tide…) is Lynn Marchmont. She’s recently returned from service in WWII to her home village of Warmsley Vale, and for the moment, is living with her mother, Adela. Lynn’s been away for a few years, and experienced a number of things. While she’s still her mother’s daughter, she’s a full-fledged adult with a very different perspective to the one she had. And that makes for some awkwardness between them. It’s clear that they love each other, but their relationship has gotten somewhat strained. That’s especially true with regard to their financial situation. In one major plot thread, we learn that Adela’s brother, Gordon Cloade, was a very wealthy man who’d always promised that his siblings and their families wouldn’t have to worry about money. But he married without changing his will to protect the rest of his family. Shortly after his marriage, Cloade was killed in a bomb blast. Now, his widow, Rosaleen, is set to inherit his considerable fortune, leaving the rest of the Cloades in need of money. Lynn and her mother don’t agree on how to cope with this, and it makes for some friction between them. And that adds to the tension in the story.

Wartime experience also changes the relationship between former Glasgow copper Douglas Brodie and his good friend, Hugh ‘Shug’ Donovan, whom we meet in Gordon Ferris’ The Hanging Shed. As the novel begins, WWII has just ended. Brodie has returned to the UK after his service, and is trying to make a life for himself in London. Then, he gets a call from Donovan. It seems that Donovan’s been arrested and imprisoned for the abduction and murder of a boy named Rory Hutchinson, and he’s soon to be executed. Brodie isn’t sure what, if anything, he can do to help. And in any case, he’s not even sure that his friend is innocent, as there’s solid evidence against him. The relationship was a bit strained anyway, since Donovan had been involved with Brodie’s one-time love interest. Still, Brodie agrees to at least ask a few questions. So, he travels to Glasgow and begins to look into the matter. And soon, he and Donovan’s lawyer, Samantha ‘Sam’ Campbell, find that this case is much more complicated than they thought. As it turns out, there are several people who might have wanted to frame Donovan for this murder. Both Brodie and Donovan have had terrible wartime experiences, and deal with what we now would call PTSD. This doesn’t incapacitate Brodie, but it does impact the friendship between the two men.

Fans of Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series will know Clara and Peter Morrow. They are both artists who live in the small Québec town of Three Pines. The main sleuth in this series is Gamache, but as the series goes on, we get to know the Morrows, along with several other Three Pines residents. At the beginning of the series, Peter Morrow is acknowledged as the Morrow with the real talent. Clara accepts this, and those are the rules by which they live. Gradually, Clara finds her own self as an artist, and over time, her skill begins to eclipse that of her husband. That change causes real upheaval in their marriage. The rules the Morrows have always accepted have to be re-written, and this leads to an important story arc.

There are several important changes in the relationship between Håkan Östlundh’s Gotland police detective Fredrik Broman and his wife, Ninni. For one thing, the rules they’ve always lived by change as a result of an affair that Borman has. In fact, Ninni asks him to leave. Now, the couple have to re-write their ‘rules of engagement,’ since they have two children. They’re working that out when he is seriously injured in the line of duty. Now, the couple re-writes their relationship again, since Borman is in real need of regular care as he recuperates. In that sense, as devastating as his injuries are, it enables the couple to work together, so that they can, well, be a couple again.

That story arc is a just a little reminiscent of what happens to DI Hazel Micallef, whom we first meet in Inger Ash Wolfe/Michael Redhill’s The Calling. She’s been divorced from her ex-husband, Andrew, for some time, and he is now remarried. She’s not overly vengeful about it, but at the same time, she has no great desire to patch things up, or even to be friends with Andrew. They’re civil enough when they need to communicate, and that’s as far as Hazel is interested in going. Then, in one story arc in this series, Hazel finds herself in need of emergency back surgery. This surgery entails a long recuperation, during which Hazel won’t be able to care for herself. And her mother, Emily, is too old and frail to take over. So, for practical purposes, the only choice she has is to move in with Andrew and his second wife. That change causes a real re-writing of the rules they’ve lived by, and makes for an interesting plot thread.

And then there’s Dunedin Detective Senior Sergeant Leo Judd and his wife, Kate, whom we meet in Jane Woodham’s Twister. Nine years before the events in the novel, their daughter, Beth, went missing, and was never found. This in itself changed their relationship dramatically, and they’re still dealing with that. Then, the body of Tracey Wenlock is discovered after a twister and a lot of rain pass through Dunedin. She was reported missing two weeks earlier, and now that her body has been find, the missing person case becomes a murder case. The police department has been hit by a ‘flu epidemic, and Judd’s the only one available to lead the investigation, so he starts the process. The case forces both Judds to look again at their marriage and Beth’s disappearance, and the process is painful for them. And it leads to another re-working of their personal rules.

And that’s what often happens when a major event happens within a relationship. The people involved change, so the relationship changes. Even when that change is for the better, it’s still stressful.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s You Must Love Me.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Gordon Ferris, Håkan Östlundh, Inger Ash Wolfe, Jane Woodham, Louise Penny, Michael Redhill

While I’m in the Middle of a Slow Recovery*

slow-recoveryMost crime fiction fans want their stories to be believable at some level. They want authentic portrayals of characters, police investigations (if they are part of a story), and so on. At the same time, readers also want their stories to keep their interest. As one quick example, DNA analysis can take weeks or even months, depending on a lot of factors. Crime fiction fans don’t necessarily want a description of every single thing that happens during those weeks or months.

This presents a challenge for crime writers. How does the crime writer acknowledge the reality of what really happens when a crime is committed, but at the same time, consider pacing, timing, and other aspects of a well-told story? It’s not an easy balance to maintain.

Still, some writers do it very effectively. We can see that just by looking at one factor: the amount of time it takes to get back to work after a traumatic incident such as a line-of-duty injury. In real life, it may take months (or more) to resume duties after a serious injury, or after serious psychological trauma associated with it. But crime readers don’t want to read about months of physical or possibly psychological therapy.

Some writers handle this by having that recuperation happen before or between novels, as you might say. For example, as Jussi Adler-Olsen’s ‘Department Q’ series begins, Copenhagen homicide detective Carl Mørck has recently returned to work after a line-of-duty shooting in which h e was gravely injured. One colleague was killed, and another left with paralysis in that incident, so Mørck has some healing to do. But Mercy (AKA The Keeper of Lost Causes) doesn’t go into detail about Mørck’s physical recuperation. Although there are some scenes with the department’s psychotherapist, the bulk of the novel concerns an investigation: the disappearance of promising politician Merete Lynggaard. In this case, Adler-Olsen has all of that ‘down time’ occur before the novel even starts.

Kathryn Fox takes a similar approach with one of her protagonists, New South Wales DS Kate Farrer. As a result of some of the incidents in Malicious Intent, Farrer ends up needing to take a few months of leave from her job. Rather than describing in exhaustive detail the physical and psychological therapy she undergoes, Fox simply places the focus on her other protagonist, freelance forensic pathologist Anya Crichton. It’s Crichton who does the sleuthing in the next novel, Without Consent. Farrer returns in Skin and Bones, the following novel, and we learn that she still has some work to do to complete her recovery, but that she’s made a lot of progress. Farrer’s ‘down time’ takes place between novels.

Håkan Östlundh’s crime series features Gotland police detectives Fredrik Broman and Sara Oskarsson. As a result of things that happen in The Viper, Broman is critically injured, and it’s clear that his recovery will take a great deal of time, assuming he can make a full recovery. That ‘down time’ isn’t the focus of the novel, though, nor of its follow-up, The Intruder. Rather, The Intruder begins as Borman returns to work. In fact, Östlundh presents a very realistic portrait of Borman’s uncertainty about returning to work, combined with his understandable resentment that others aren’t entirely convinced he’s ready to return to work.

There are plenty of other examples, too, of authors who deal with recuperation by simply having it occur between books (right, fans of Kel Robertson’s Bradman ‘Brad’ Chen?). But that’s not the only way that authors address this issue.

For instance, Inger Ash Wolfe/Michael Redhill’s DI Hazel Micallef works for the Port Dundas, Ontario police. As the series begins (with The Calling), she’s already suffering from a bad back. As a result of the events in the story, her situation becomes dire, and she needs emergency surgery. As The Taken, the next novel in the series, begins, she’s staying in her ex-husband’s home, so that he and his new wife can help take care of her as she recovers (she’s unable to do much by herself at first). It’s clear in that novel that she’s not yet ready to go back to her regular duties. But Wolfe/Redhill doesn’t go on and on about each detail of her recuperation. Rather, it’s a sort of background context to the actual ‘meat’ of the story, which is a bizarre set of events that eerily mirrors a crime novel that’s being published in serial form in the Port Dundas Record. In this way, Micallef’s recovery is presented authentically, but it doesn’t drag the story down.

Robert Gott doesn’t gloss over the long road to recovery for Sergeant Joe Sable of the Melbourne Police, whom we first meet in The Holiday Murders. In that novel, Sable, his boss, DI Titus Lambert, and his colleague, Constable Helen Lord, investigate a particularly brutal set of murders that occur over the Christmas holidays. As a result of that investigation, Sable is badly injured, and carries a burden of guilt, too. At the beginning of the next novel, The Port Fairy Murders, Sable has just returned to work. The events of this novel take place almost immediately after the events of the first novel. So, several people, including Lambert, think that Sable has returned to work too soon. He insists he’s ready, though, and his help is certainly needed for this new investigation. The team has to contend with a double murder, complete with signed confession, that isn’t at all what it seems. At the same time, the detectives are looking for George Starling, a dangerous man who has his own frightening agenda. As the novel goes on, Sable goes through part of the healing process. It’s painful and difficult, but Gott doesn’t overburden the novel with this aspect of the story. Instead, it’s woven naturally into the plot.

There are other ways, too, in which authors write authentically about recuperation without overburdening the story (right, fans of James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux?). It’s not always easy, but the end result can make for compelling character development.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Lucy Woodward’s Slow Recovery.

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Filed under Håkan Östlundh, Inger Ash Wolfe, James Lee Burke, Jussi Adler-Olsen, Kathryn Fox, Kel Robertson, Michael Redhill, Robert Gott

See You, Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard*

schoolyards-and-playgroundsWhen children are in the classroom, they’re supposed to behave themselves, and many do. What’s more, classroom activities are usually structured and choreographed by the teacher. So, they’re not always realistic, natural looks at what children are like.

But you can learn a lot about children and their families by watching them in the schoolyard or on the playground. Whether it’s before school, after school, or at recess/lunch/break, children tend to be more unguarded there. And, even when their parents or caregivers know that other people may see them, they’re sometimes unguarded, too. That can lead to all sorts of interactions.

Those can be the basis for interesting, and even suspenseful, plot points in crime fiction. There are a number of examples of these sorts of scenes. Here are just a few.

In Karin Alvtegen’s Betrayal, Eva Wirenström-Berg discovers that her husband, Henrik, has been unfaithful. She’d had the illusion that she, Henrik, and their six-year-old son, Axel, had the perfect suburban life, so the news of Henrik’s affair is devastating. When Eva learns who Henrik’s mistress is, she decides to plot her own revenge. Her plan spins out of control, though, and leads to tragedy. In one plot thread of the story, she has a different sort of worry. One day, she’s driving Axel home from school when she notices he has a new toy. Then, he tells her about the man who gave it to him:
 

‘‘…he was standing outside the fence by the woods and then he called me while I was on the swing and said he was going to give me something nice.’’
 

Naturally, Eva’s frightened at the thought of what could have happened. Axel, as it turns out, is unhurt. But the man does figure into the plot, and the playground scene could frighten any parent.

Paddy Richardson’s Traces of Red concerns the murders of Angela Dickson, her husband, Rowan, and their son, Sam. The only survivor that day was their daughter, Katy, who wasn’t home at the time of the killings. For years, Angela’s brother, Connor Bligh, has been in prison for the murders. But now, there are little hints that he might not be guilty. And if he is innocent, Wellington journalist Rebecca Thorne thinks she’s found the story to guarantee her place at the top of the list of New Zealand journalists. She starts asking questions, and takes the opportunity to meet several people, some of whom are convinced Bligh is guilty, and others who aren’t so sure. She also meets with Bligh himself, and persuades him to tell her his story. He takes her at her word, and sends her a long letter, telling her about his life. It’s not been a very happy one, either. He’s unusually intelligent, and never really fit in at school, because he was so far ahead of the other children intellectually. The letter tells of brutal play yard bullying, among other things. But then, Thorne learns that his story is different to the stories that his former schoolmates tell. The playground incidents aren’t the reason for the murders. And they don’t really get Thorne any closer to the truth about those killings. But they certainly shed light on what playground activities can be like when the adults aren’t around.

Håkan Östlundh’s The Intruder tells the story of Malin Andersson, her husband, Henrik Kjellander, and their two children, Ellen and Axel. When they return to their home on the island of Fårö after two months away, they’re dismayed to see terrible messes everywhere. At first, it looks like a case of horrible tenants. But some of the family photographs have been damaged in a very deliberate way that looks much more personal. Gotland police detectives Fredrik Broman and Sara Oskarsson begin to look into the case, and see two possibilities. One is that one of the tenants had a personal grudge against the family. The other is that someone who knows the family found a way to get inside the house. The police aren’t sure what sort of case this is until the day that seven-year-old Ellen disappears from school. According to her friend, Matilda, Ellen was lured into a white car that stopped by the playground at the school she attends. That’s enough for the police to set a major search in motion, and certainly convinces them that this family is being targeted. Now they have to discover who’s behind everything, and what the motive is.

Some of the key action in Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies takes place on the playground of Piriwee Public School, on the Piriwee Peninsula, near Sydney. The story’s focus is three families who send their children to Kindergarten at the school. One of those children is accused of bullying by the mother of another child, and before long, this causes a major conflict. Many parents take the side of the accusing parent, because she’s one of the school’s leaders. Others, though, are not so quick to accuse, and take the side of the boy who’s been accused of bullying. The truth is, it was a playground incident, so no adult actually saw what happened. So, it’s hard to know who did what. There are other conflicts among some of the families, too, and other dynamics going on. It all simmers until Trivia Night, which is supposed to be a fundraiser for the school. The food doesn’t arrive on time, so everyone has too much to drink and not enough food to absorb the alcohol. Tempers flare and the end result is tragedy. The police investigate, and we slowly learn what really happened on the playground, and what really happened on Trivia Night.

And then there’s Gail Bowen’s Joanne Kilbourn Shreve, a retired academic and political scientist. In Kaleidoscope, her adult daughter, Mieka, opens a combination playground/meeting place she calls UpSlideDown in Regina’s struggling North Central district. Young parents in that area do not always have the support they need to help their children. So, Mieka has designed UpSlideDOown as a place where parents can meet, let their children play, get parenting advice, and find support. It’s so successful that Mieka opens UpSlideDown2. Admittedly, neither place is the scene of a murder, or an investigation. But both places play roles in the stories. And they’re both examples of the ways in which a playground can be a very positive place.

Playgrounds and schoolyards are where the action often is when it comes to young people’s interactions. And it’s where you sometimes see their parents in very unguarded moments, too. That’s part of what can make them so effective in crime novels.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Paul Simon’s Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.

    

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Filed under Gail Bowen, Håkan Östlundh, Karin Alvtegen, Liane Moriarty, Paddy Richardson

Preschool Days*

Day CareOne of the major changes that we’ve seen in Western society in the last decades has been the growth of preschool and day care facilities. There are, of course, good reasons for this. For one thing, there’s an increasing number of both dual-income households and households headed by single adults. For another thing, there are fewer extended families living in the same area than there used to be. This means fewer grandparents and others who can help take care of little children while parents work (besides; many of today’s grandparents have full-time jobs themselves). What’s more, many Western cultures (certainly not all!) tend to be individualistic. So the care of small children isn’t necessarily seen as a family group responsibility in the same way as it is in more collectivist cultures.

All of this has arguably led to the day care/preschool solution. These facilities vary greatly, depending on income, location and the like. But in whatever form they take, they’ve become a fixture in many cultures, and many families depend on them.

Child care facilities/preschools show up in crime fiction as well. And it’s interesting to see how they’re portrayed. Carin Gerhardsen’s The Gingerbread House begins with a prologue that takes place in 1968, when day care was just beginning to be a ‘respectable’ option and many people still thought less of parents who took advantage of it. An incident takes place at a preschool in the Swedish town of Katrineholm (and no, it’s not the stereotypical abducted child scenario). That incident has repercussions years later, when Stockholm real estate sales professional Hans Vannerberg disappears after telling his wife, Pia, that he’s going to look at a house for a client. When his body is later discovered in a different house, Stockholm DCI Conny Sjöberg and his team investigate. They’re just getting started when there’s another murder. And another. Sjöberg and his team will have to go back to the past, as it were, to find out the truth behind these killings.

Karin Alvtegen’s Betrayal introduces readers to Eva Wirenström-Berg and her husband Henrik. Together with their six-year-old son Axel, they seem to be living the idyllic suburban life. And that’s the way Eva is determined to keep it. Her world is shattered, though, when she discovers that Henrik has been unfaithful. When Eva learns who the other woman is, she is devastated. And in one plot thread of this novel, she begins to plot her revenge. That plan turns out to have devastating consequences for several of the characters. And without spoiling the story, I can say that Axel’s day care/preschool plays a role in what happens.

Håkan Östlundh’s The Intruder has as its focus Malin Andersson, her husband Henrik Kjellander, and their two children, Ellen and Axel. They return to their home on Fårö after a two-month absence, only to find that everything is in a serious mess. At first, they blame the state of their house on the tenants who stayed there during their absence. But then Malin finds a carefully mutilated family photograph – not something a careless or even spiteful tenant would likely do. She calls in the police, and Gotland police detectives Fredrik Broman and Sara Oskarsson begin to look into the matter. It could be a tenant with a personal grudge. It could also be someone else who knows the family and broke into the house. There are other possibilities, too. Then there’s another scare. Malin drops Axel off at his preschool/day care, hoping to get him back into the family’s normal routine. As she’s leaving the facility, she notices a woman watching her. It’s not one of the teachers; nor is it another parent – at least not one she knows. On the surface of it, it’s just a woman on the same street. But Malin has the eerie sense that this woman is specifically watching her for some reason. And thing brings up all sorts of fears for Axel’s safety. It’s little wonder that most modern preschools and other child care places have strict policies about who is allowed on the premises, when, and so on.

Gail Bowen’s series features Joanne Kilbourn Shreve, a now-retired academician and political scientist. In Kaleidoscope, her adult daughter Mieka opens a new facility in Regina’s economically struggling North Central district. Called UpslideDown, it’s a combination playground/meeting place. Parents can let their children play safely, learn from other parents, and support one another as they also take advantage of UpslideDown’s parenting information. UpslideDown acknowledges the reality that many parents don’t have family support, and cannot afford safe, high-quality child care and parenting answers. UpslideDown seeks in part to fill that gap.

Child care is addressed in two of Angela Savage’s stories. In The Half Child, Jim Delbeck hires Bangkok-based PI Jayne Keeney to investigate the death of his daughter, Maryanne. She was a volunteer at New Life Children’s Centre when she was pushed (or fell, or jumped) from the roof of the building where she lived. The police claim this is a case of suicide. But Delbeck doesn’t believe it, and wants the truth. Keeney takes the case and travels to Pattaya, where Maryanne died. As a part of looking into the matter, Keeney goes undercover at New Life to find out what goes on there. It’s not a day care/preschool in the sense that most Westerners think of such places. Rather, it’s a combination orphanage and child care facility. Some of the babies there have been abandoned, and are simply staying there until they can be matched with adoptive parents. Others, though, are ‘boarders.’ They are the children of young women, mostly single, who cannot care for them, and who no longer live in their home villages, where relatives could look after their babies. The ‘boarders’ live at New Life, but their mothers visit them. The idea is that these babies will return to their homes when their mothers have saved up enough money, and are in a good position to take care of them. It’s an interesting look at child care in a culture where extended families have traditionally provided that support. Savage’s short story The Teardrop Tattoos also involves child care. A young woman is released from prison, where she’s served a sentence for murder. She and her pit bull Sully are provided a place to live not far from a local day care provider. One day, one of the mothers lodges a complaint about Sully, and Sully’s human companion is given no choice but to get rid of him. Devastated at this loss, the woman plots her own sort of revenge…

Whether you call such places day care, preschool, crèches, or something else, child care facilities are fast becoming a fixture in many modern cultures. They provide a service that many parents depend on, and they can add an interesting layer to a crime novel.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Dogwood. Incidentally, they’re a punk band based only about 30k (about 21 miles) from where I live.

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Filed under Angela Savage, Carin Gerhardsen, Gail Bowen, Håkan Östlundh, Karin Alvtegen

In The Spotlight: Håkan Östlundh’s The Intruder

SpotlightHello, All,

Welcome to another edition of In The Spotlight. One of the more interesting contexts for a crime novel is the small island. The sense of isolation, the insularity and the physical setting can all contribute to a strong sense of atmosphere. That’s what we see in Håkan Östlundh’s The Intruder, so let’s turn the spotlight on that novel today.

The story’s focus is Malin Andersson, her husband Henrik Kjellander, and their two children Ellen and Axel. Malin is a professional blogger whose site, Malin’s Table, features natural recipes and home living ideas. Henrik is a professional photographer who’s hoping that their property will attract filmmakers and photographers who want an authentic Swedish island setting. As the story begins, they’re returning to their home on the island of Fårö after an absence. They’re looking forward to settling back into their home and getting back to life.

When they arrive, they find that several dishes and utensils are missing. They also find trash, sticky messes and worse. At first, they both blame the tenants who’ve been staying in their home. It had seemed like a good idea to rent the place out and earn extra money, since they were gone anyway. But now the plan has obviously backfired. Then, Malin finds a mutilated family photograph. That’s not the sort of damage that even a terrible tenant would cause; it’s too personal and deliberate. So the police are called in.

Gotland police detectives Fredrik Broman and Sara Oskarsson have two angles to pursue. One is that one of the tenants has a personal grudge against the family. Another is that someone else – perhaps even a family member – got into the house after the last tenant left, but before Malin and Henrik and their children got home.

The police are still not sure exactly how seriously to take this threat. On the one hand, it could certainly be a case of malicious mischief – bad enough, but not an immediate danger to the family. But Malin in particular fears that it might be much more than a set of mean pranks gone too far. More than once she has the terrible feeling that she’s being watched, although there’s nothing concrete to support her. And there’s the fact that the family has begun to receive anonymous frightening letters.

The police are starting to pick up the pace of their investigation when Ellen disappears. Now the stakes are much higher, and everyone joins in a frantic search for the girl. In the end, we learn the truth about who has targeted the family and why. We also learn that this family history is much more complex than it seems on the surface. It turns out that the past has everything to do with the present danger.

Much of the action takes place on Fårö, with some on Gotland. Readers get a clear sense of what island life is like. For instance, there is one local grocery store, but any real shopping requires either a ferry trip to Gotland or even a trip to the mainland. There are some local schools, but a lot of children take the ferry to school. In other ways, too, island life can be isolating. Even in today’s world of online commerce, daily living on the island can be frustrating, especially if the power goes out. And yet, it’s naturally beautiful. And there’s an appeal to the slower pace and smaller community of the island.

Another important element in this novel is the sense of violation that comes from having one’s home invaded. If you’ve ever had your home broken into, you know how frightening that is. The fact that the person responsible is keeping up a campaign of fear makes it even eerier. And there is of course the terror that any loving parent would feel when a child goes missing.

Some of the story is told from Fredrik Broman’s point of view, so readers learn about his character. Broman is just returning to work after a two-year absence during which he was recovering from devastating injuries caused by an accident. On the one hand, he’s still dealing with issues from that accident. It’s changed his family dynamics, and it’s had an impact on how he’s perceived at work. On the other, Borman has a loving relationship with his wife Ninni, and strong bonds with his sons Joakim and Simon. The family has its ups and downs as many families do. But Borman is certainly functional and stable.

Since Broman is a police detective, there’s also a sense of the police procedural about this novel. Readers follow along as he and Oskarsson follow up leads, interview people, make sense of forensics evidence, and so on. There isn’t the sense of departmental politics that there sometimes is in police procedurals. That said though, there is concern about Borman’s readiness to take on what turns out to be a dark, ugly, complicated investigation.

The story is also told in part from Malin’s point of view and, sometimes, from Henrik’s. So readers also get a sense of their characters. One of the things that comes out in this novel is that even people who are in solid marriages can have secrets from each other. Their relationship may not be perfect (is anyone’s?), but they do love one another. We see, too, how the experience of being stalked wears on both of them and impacts their relationship. So, of course, does the awful strain of having their daughter go missing.

This is not a light, easy novel with a ‘storybook’ ending. Some aspects of it are very dark, and all is not well again in the end. In that sense, it’s very, very sad, and it’s a story where one could ask, ‘What if?’ in a few places. And yet, there is also the sense that life will go on. There isn’t the completely bleak hopelessness in this novel that there is in some dark noir stories.

The Intruder is the story of the impact on a family of being stalked and targeted. It also shows the effect of past history and of keeping secrets. The novel takes place against a distinctive backdrop, and shows the way a police team works when a family is threatened. But what’s your view? Have you read The Intruder? If you have, what elements do you see in it?

 
 
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Coming Up On In The Spotlight

 

Monday 20 July/Tuesday 21 July – Jamaica Inn – Daphne du Maurier

Monday 27 July/Tuesday 28 July – The Blackhouse – Peter May

Monday 3 August/Tuesday 4 August – Working Girls – Maureen Carter

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Filed under Håkan Östlundh, The Intruder