Title: Midwinter Blood
Author: Mons Kallentoft
Short Review: Solid crime fiction, classic Swedish mystery, interesting POV choices.
Midwinter Blood is a solid example of a police procedural as well as a Swedish mystery. A dead body hanging naked (and frozen) from a tree greets Inspector Fors morning. Was it suicide, murder, ritual? Fors begins her case by understanding the victim and then branching out to all possible suspects. Methodically she winnows down her list until the final climatic conclusion bringing you the reader along for the ride.
Two things made this book stand out from its peers. First in the course of investigating the various suspects the police run into a lot of petty crimes. Being a dead end to the main crime these plot lines are typically abandon. Kallentoft sticks with these avenues until the end which really helps to build the world around crime and the characters, but yet always leaving doubt in the back of your mind. You are never quite sure you have “figured it out.” I imagine real police work follows the same path, accidently running into crimes when looking for something else. It also goes to show how much goes unnoticed in society.
The second thing was how the author played with point of view. Malin Fors is the central character of the book and we experience 90% through the prism of her eyes. She is a driven person constantly trying to appease her life outside of her job (as the crime takes over her life). She deals with family, coworkers, and suspects with the same questioning attitude, pushing to the truth. On occasion the author briefly switches to one of the many other characters to get their reaction to events. The victim even turns up on occasion and it turns out you can be pretty forgiving when you are dead.
All the hallmarks of a great Nordic mystery are present: Malin Fors has issues with her personal life, the bad guys are never truly bad, but rather regular people making bad choices in a bad situation, and even the weather plays a supporting role (it gets very cold in Northern Sweden). Through it all Malin keeps plugging away doggedly, eventually coming at some semblance of the truth. With this debut novel Kallentoft has created a solid community of characters and place, that it should lead to a lot of great stories.
Copyright: 2007 (translated 2011)
Quick Review: 4 Stars out of 5.
Why I Read it: Love the Nordic police procedural.
Where I Obtained the Book: Sent to me by the publisher for review
Synopsis: Meet Malin Fors. Be careful, though, she’s addictive. Thirty-four years old, blond, single, divorced with a teenaged daughter, Fors is the most driven superintendent who has ever worked at the police force in her small, isolated town. And the most talented. In her job, she is constantly moving through the borderland between life and death. Her path in life is violent and hazardous.
It is the coldest February in recent memory. In the early hours of a particularly frigid night, the body of an obese man is found hanging from lone oak tree in the middle of a withered, windswept plain. Malin Fors is called to the scene.
Together with her colleagues of the Violent Crime Squad at Linköping Police Department, they must find out who the man in the tree is, and how he got there. Their manhunt in the frigid wake of a ruthless killer brings Malin Fors to the brink, and into some of the darkest corners of the human heart. The first in a series of four books, Midwinter Blood will keep readers coming back for more, again and again.
Author Biography: After being awarded the Swedish equivalent to the Whitbread Award for his debut novel Pesetas, Mons Kallentoft chose to give his own unique take on the classic Scandinavian crime novel. His success was immediate. The first book in the series about superintendent Malin Fors received unanimous praise from the national critics; it also conquered the bestseller charts and has today sold more than 300,000 copies in Sweden alone.
Was Mons Kallentoft born to be a storyteller? Yes, perhaps. Because, considering his upbringing, literature was not the obvious path in life. Mons grew up in a working-class home in the provincial town of Linköping, Sweden. Books were a rare phenomenon in his house; instead the young author spent his time playing football and ice hockey.
He discovered literature when he was about fourteen, and bedridden following a severe sports injury. Kafka, Hemingway and George Orwell introduced the young man to a whole new world.
The path to his own authorship led him through the advertising business, journalism and the shady side of Madrid. His debut, Pesetas, which was awarded the Swedish equivalent to the Whitbread Award, takes place among cocaine dealers and bankrobbers in the Spanish capital.