- Audiobook Review
- Author: Viveca Sten
- Translation by Marlaine Delargy
- Performed by Angela Dawe
- Released: October 2015 by Brilliance Audio
- Category: Nordic, Murder, Mystery
On a hot July morning on Sweden’s idyllic vacation island of Sandhamn, a man takes his dog for a walk and makes a gruesome discovery: a body, tangled in fishing net, has washed ashore.
A great opening scene begins the story which is set on Sandhamn, a popular summer retreat and one of the islands in the Stockholm Archipelago. Inspector Thomas Andreasson, with the violent crime unit in Nacka Municipality, is called out to Sandhamn when a body washes up on the beach. The deceased man is eventually identified as Krister Berggren, who lived on the mainland and has been missing for quite a while. The death looks like an accident initially but when another body is found and turns out to be Krister’s cousin, Kicki Berggren, a murder investigation is launched.
Everything was completely still and peaceful as only winter can be, when the archipelago belongs to those who live there, and the raucous summer visitors have not yet taken over the islands.
The water was dark and shining, the cold of winter lying heavily on the surface. Odd patches of snow rested on the rocks. A few mergansers stood out like dots against the sky, and the sun was low on the horizon.
“Help me,” he yelled. “Help me, for God’s sake!”
Thomas seems to be hindered by one thing or another at every turn in the investigation, making his job all the harder. The bonus for him is he’s able to connect with his best friend since childhood, Nora Linde, a local lawyer. She and her family live on Sandhamn.
The story is told through the eyes of Thomas and Nora and as it seems the norm for the main character to have issues and/or a tragedy in their past, Thomas is no exception. Nora is also having relationship problems with a selfish husband who refuses to see anyone’s point of view but his own.
I like descriptive passages when they relate to the plot or setting but here there’s quite a lot of what I feel is unnecessary detail and repetition which slows the pace: descriptions of meals, furniture, how much milk and sugar goes into the tea and too many deliberations on personal issues….you get the idea. Underneath all that though, the characters are realistic in that they have flaws and weaknesses, hopes and disappointments. They have a lot of potential and need developing more, which hopefully will happen in future books. I did warm to Thomas and Nora as the story progressed and would like to know what happens to them. These are obviously very popular stories in Sweden as there’s a TV series based on the books.
I don’t think this could be classed as Nordic Noir, more a cozy type of murder/mystery, police procedural. There’s no graphic descriptions of blood and gore or mad serial killers on the loose.
We know from the start Nora is diabetic as it’s mentioned several times, so her decision towards the end didn’t ring true at all. The murderer did take me by surprise, however, and as this is book one in a series I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and try the second. Although the murders are solved, personal storylines are left unresolved.
The setting is beautiful and atmospheric, the descriptions made me want to visit and it was very interesting to learn something of the Swedish culture and way of life. I did find it odd that the translation is American English which seems a little out of place for a story set in Sweden, especially since the translator is English.
Having said all that, it was an easy enough listen which I did mostly enjoy.
About Viveca Sten
Viveca Sten made her author debut with crime novel Still Waters. It soon became a huge hit with both critics and readers and today the author has sold almost 3 million copies of her books worldwide.
In May 2014, her seventh novel, The Price of Power, was published in Sweden. It was hugely successful and Viveca cemented her place as one of the country’s most popular authors. Her Sandhamn Murder Series continues to top the best seller charts, not to mention the whopping success of the TV mini-series that is based on Viveca’s novels. An estimated 30 million people around the globe have been watching the adventures of Nora and Thomas unfold on the TV screen.
Today, Viveca lives in Stockholm with her husband and three children. During the summer months she leaves for Sandhamn to write and spend the holidays with her family. This year she has also been working on a cookbook that features stories from the Stockholm archipelago.