The Forbidden Place by Susanne Jansson ~ Swedish Noir #CrimeFiction #NetGalley #TheForbiddenPlace

Author: Susanne Jansson ~ translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles

Published: September 2018 by Mulholland Books

Category: Crime, Mystery, Mythology, Swedish Noir, Book Review

In the remote Swedish wetlands lies Mossmarken: the village on the edge of the mire where, once upon a time, people came to leave offerings to the gods.

Biologist Nathalie came in order to study the peat bogs. But she has a secret: Mossmarken was once her home, a place where terrible things happened. She has returned at last, determined to confront her childhood trauma and find out the truth.

This is a story of two halves for me. On one hand there’s the darkness, sense of unease and mystery surrounding the crime and paranormal element, on the other a lot of wading through unnecessarily detailed accounts that brought a slow burning but intriguing plot almost to a standstill. 

I don’t normally mention the formatting of an ARC (I know they’re uncorrected much of the time) and I only do so now because reading this one was a challenge as there were no page breaks to speak of, signifying chapter endings or changes of perspective, which made the read quite confusing and probably contributed to my lack of engagement with the story.

Nathalie Ström had returned to her childhood home of Mossmarken to work on her doctoral dissertation, studying the effects of greenhouse gases in peat bogs of the wetlands area, hoping it would help climate research. She left Mossmarken when she was twelve years old after a family tragedy and has never been back. Until now. Another reason she chose this place for her work—she wanted to find out the truth of what happened all those years ago. On one of her excursions into the bog she discovers the unconscious Johannes, someone with whom she has recently become acquainted. His pockets were filled with coins, mirroring the ancient human sacrifices.

The moon sailed out from behind the clouds in the dark sky. It illuminated tendrils of fog as they slowly swept across the damp ground.

He thought he heard a noise. Was it the wind? Or an animal? It almost sounded like a wail. Like faint cries.

Then he saw a glow coming down the path.

A torch. Someone was coming!

The story is told from two points of view—Nathalie and photographer/artist Maya Linde, who also works as an occasional forensic photographer for the police. When other bodies are discovered in the bog, the past and present storylines become woven together. This was the part I thought worked the best and Nathalie has no choice but to dredge up painful memories from her past. It’s anyone’s guess who the present day perpetrator is as there are several suspects to choose from. 

Several years ago, a ‘bog body’ had been found, thought to have been there since the Ice Age. This gave rise to the mythological aspect of the story which  was very atmospheric, giving the impression that anything could, and does, happen in and around the peat bog. It’s an eerie and dangerous place and as several people had gone missing over the years the folklore persisted. The mythology and ancient traditions, along with the people who lived there were described very well. The police investigation was less well covered and the scientific facts and philosophical thoughts and conversations diluted the suspense and present day mystery for me, and I felt that perhaps the story suffered a little because of it. 

I chose to read and review The Forbidden Place courtesy of Hodder & Stoughton via NetGalley

Book links ~ Amazon UK | Amazon US

About the Author

Susanne Jansson was born in 1972 in Åmål, Sweden. She later moved to Gothenburg to work in advertising and then to New York to study photography. After returning to Sweden, she worked as a freelance photographer while studying journalism, and for the past twenty years she has been combining her work as a photographer with being a freelance journalist focusing on reportage and profile stories in areas such as arts and culture. She has also written crime short stories for weekly magazines. She lives with her family in Lerum outside Gothenburg. The Forbidden Place is her debut novel, and has sold in twenty five territories around the world.

2 thoughts on “The Forbidden Place by Susanne Jansson ~ Swedish Noir #CrimeFiction #NetGalley #TheForbiddenPlace

  1. It’s an interesting premise – pity it didn’t quite live up to it. I hate badly formatted ARCs – you’d think publishers would know that a book that’s difficult to read is less likely to grab us…

    Liked by 1 person

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