Posts Tagged ‘Sweden’

smokeMystery writers are magicians of sorts, constructing clever puzzles, misdirecting our attention, dazzling us with their verbal sleight of hand. They also juggle characters and clues, and, sometimes, different series. Elly Griffiths, best known for her Ruth Galloway series, introduced the “Magic Men” mysteries with last year’s clever The Zig Zag Girl. The follow-up, Smoke and Mirrors (Houghton Mifflin, digital galley), captivates as police detective Edgar Stephens and magician Max Mephisto hunt for a killer in early 1950s Brighton. It’s December, and the crime scene is straight out of Hansel and Gretel, with a trail of broken candy leading to the snow-covered corpses of young Annie and her best pal Mark. The fairy tale connections continue as Edgar learns that talented Annie liked to write plays based on Grimm for her classmates to perform, and other clues link to the pantomime Aladdin, in which Max is starring. The frantic holiday vibe, the theatrical backdrop, the colorful characters and the bleak weather add up to a moody mystery. Abracadabra, indeed!

wrongsideMichael Connelly takes a walk on the noir side in his new Harry Bosch novel, beginning with the title The Wrong Side of Goodbye (Little, Brown, digital galley). Then Harry, now retired from the LAPD and working part-time as a PI, goes calling on money — wealthy aviation tycoon Whitney Vance, 85 and in failing health. He wants Harry to find out what happened to the Mexican teen he got pregnant when he was a USC student 65 years ago and who then vanished. Is Vibiana still living and did she have the baby? Does he have a heir? Sworn to secrecy, Harry begins a dogged search for possible Vance descendants, a hunt that takes him to a one-time home for unwed mothers and his own past as a Vietnam vet. Meanwhile, Harry, who is also a reserve police officer for the city of San Fernando, is on the case of the “Screen Ripper,” a serial rapist with an unusual m.o. The parallel stories don’t intersect, except that Harry’s time and loyalties are divided between the two cases, both of which offer surprises and coincidences. Nice work.

mistletoeHere’s an unexpected treat: The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories (Knopf, digital galley) brings together four previously uncollected short stories by the great P.D. James, who died in 2014. In the stellar title tale, an elderly writer remembers a memorable wartime Christmas, when a fellow houseguest — an antiques dealer — was bludgeoned to death. The conclusion of this  cold case is a chilling twist. Two of the stories feature detective Adam Dalgliesh and pay homage to Christie and Holmes. In the wry “The Boxdale Inheritance,” Dalgliesh’s godfather asks him to investigate the source of family money — did Great Aunt Allie really poison her elderly husband and get away with it? “The Twelve Clues of Christmas” involves a young Dalgliesh showing local coppers how he’d solve a case. “A Very Commonplace Murder” is less Golden Age mystery and more of a creepy Hitchcockian tale as a voyeur spies on his neighbor’s illicit trysts, which end in murder. Oh, I miss P.D. James.

lostboySwedish crime writer Camilla Lackberg’s The Lost Boy (Pegasus, digital galley) combines a solid police procedural with a haunting backstory in a shivery tale of murder, drugs, grief and ghosts. Detective Patrik Hedstrom and his true-crime writer wife, Erica, should be enjoying their infant twin sons. But Erica’s sister’s loss of a baby has plunged her into months-long depression, and misfortune seems to fog the very air of Fjallbacka. Then the financial officer of soon-to-open hotel-spa is murdered, and his death leads to secrets from his past in Stockholm, shocking his elderly parents and his childhood sweetheart fleeing her abusive husband. Also in play are a couple of con artists, a violent biker gang, drug dealers high and low, and an island of ghosts. Really.

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Who killed Rosie Larsen? That was the question with which AMC wooed viewers into its new Sunday night series, “The Killing,” adapted from a hit Danish series and relocated to cold, wet Seattle. Pretty teen Rosie went missing in the first episode, and viewers have been following the subsequent investigation by police detectives Sarah Linden and Stephen Holder. You can easily catch up on the first three episodes at http://www.amctv.com/shows/the-killing , because it’s still early days in this atmospheric procedural, where the tears and fears of Rosie’s family mingle with political and private secrets in the steady, drenching rain.

“The Killing” is as gripping as it is grim, and I can’t wait for the fourth of the 13 episodes at 10 p.m. on Sunday. Even though I’m recording as I’m going, I’m still watching it in real time, not really minding the brief commercial interruptions because the narrative is so intense. It’s like you’re reading a really good crime novel and you need to take a deep breath and return to reality.

I do wish I didn’t have to wait week-to-week to find out who killed Rosie Larsen and why. But I’ve had the time to read two thrillers that remind me of “The Killing” with their chilly, disturbing plots about missing girls and secrets, and how people and communities react to domestic abuse and violence against women.

You know NIMBY — not in my backyard? That’s the overall reaction when a young tavern waitress goes missing in rural, upstate New York in Cara Hoffman’s first novel So Much Pretty. Even though Wendy White has grown up in Haedon, where a hometown dairy has morphed into an industrial farm, most people would rather think the late-blooming teen has run away than imagine her as a victim of foul play. Even when her body is found in a ditch nine months later, most of Haedon refuses to accept that anyone local is responsible.

But at least two people suspect otherwise — dogged reporter Stacy Flynn, an outsider from Cleveland, who is researching the environmental impact of the dairy, and precocious 15-year-old Alice Piper, the daughter of a city couple who have given up their idealistic medical career ambitions for the presumed peace  of country life.  Although Alice is a star student and swim team member, she’s almost as much as an outsider as Flynn, bonding only with neighboring teen Theo, similar in intellect and imagination.

Hoffman tells the story from multiple perspectives — Flynn, Alice, her parents, the mother of a suspect, Wendy herself — as well as police documents, taped interviews, Alice’s school essays. She shifts from past to present like a grasshopper, so the narrative is intentionally fragmented.

Hoffman worked as a reporter, and she assembles her material the way in which a journalist gathers information, piece by piece, one source, now another, always sifting for the facts to tell the story. The result is a bit uneven, but is definitely unsettling, even sinister, as the “big picture” becomes clearer, and violence begets violence in a shocking act of vengeance.

These same themes are at work in Swedish novelist Camilla Lackberg’s The Ice Princess, in which 35-year-old writer Erica Falck returns to her isolated hometown on the snow-blanketed coast. She has come to settle her late parents’ estate, maybe sell their beloved home if her brute of a brother-in-law has his way. But then she discovers the body of her childhood best friend, Alex, an apparent suicide with her wrists slashed in a bathtub of frozen water.

Erica is stunned that such a beautiful, successful woman would kill herself, although it’s been years since she and Alex shared everything. Maybe it’s murder? She turns to police detective Patrik Hedstrom, another childhood friend, for help and some surprise romance.

The circle of suspects is small, and includes a drunken artist, a high-flying businessman, Alex’s enigmatic husband, her secret lover, and a few locals who want the past to stay buried at all costs. Erika decides to write a book about the case, partly to banish the images of blood on the tiles, Alex’s pale corpse, “her hair that looked like a frozen halo.”

But it’s also a way to relive her own childhood and discover who Alex became after her family left Fjallbacka. “Something had happened the year before Alex moved away, and nobody had ever bothered to tell Erica what it was.”

Lackberg’s a best-selling writer in Sweden, and it’s easy to see way. Fans of Nordic crime fiction — Larsson, Mankell, Nesbo — will chill out accordingly. I’ve already ordered the second book in the series, The Preacher, which publishes the end of April. Now to set the DVR for “The Killing.”

Open Book: I borrowed a copy of So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman (Simon & Schuster) from the the wonderful Orange County Library, and I received a copy of the trade paperback edition of The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg (Free Press) as part of a web promotion.

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