The snow covered all tracks, as the killer knew it would. But it couldn't hide the victim, the man who now hung naked from a lonely tree on a frozen plain.
Malin Fors is first on the scene. A thirty-one-year-old single mother, Malin is the most talented and ambitious detective on the Linköping police force, but also the most unpredictable. She must lead the investigation while keeping her fractured life on the rails.
"An investigation consists of a mass of voices, the sort you can hear, and the sort you can't. You have to listen to the soundless voices, Malin. That's where the truth is hidden."
The quote at the start of the blurb of MIDWINTER SACRIFICE intrigued. The opening of the book with the naked, mutilated body of a man hanging from a tree in a frozen, snow covered location was startling. A new detective character, Malin Fors, single mother of a teenage daughter engaging. But ultimately it was the concept of the "voices" of an investigation that weave their way through this book, that delivered an unusual, compelling perspective.
Slow moving, immersion reading in the very best tradition of Scandinavian styled mysteries, this book has an additional aspect in that it's narrated by voices, including the victim himself, whose voice pleads, cajoles and guides Malin (not that she can hear him!). But the point is well made. The victim in a case has a voice. Obviously, an investigator rarely hears the victim of a murder, but their life, as well as their death, can "speak" to the investigating team if they are prepared to listen.
Alongside the use of the voices, there's a solid police procedural moving through this book - from the difficulties of identifying the victim, to the explanation of why they would become a victim of such a violent crime. To the past that informs the present. But we are talking dark, intricate, reserved, thoughtful and sinister. We're talking cold and atmospheric - partially because of the weather, partially because of the characters who inhabit the story.
We're also talking a good central character - investigator Malin Fors has a complicated personal life, a strange history with her ex-husband, and a realistic relationship with her teenage daughter. There's enough of the personal elements (good and bad) of her life built into the story to give a sense of the balancing act that a major investigation has to become. Perhaps some of her work colleagues are less strongly drawn - although to be honest I didn't think that was an obvious problem or even inexplicable.
Undoubtedly MIDWINTER SACRIFICE is one of those books that you have to sink into, allow it to spin out the story, go with the voices and deal with the reserve. Fans of that particularly thoughtful, considered, reserved, Scandinavian style will definitely find something in this book. Personally I found the idea of the voices within an investigation fascinating and the book particularly difficult to put down. There's real balance and believability about Fors, her family, her private and professional struggle, but at the same time, there's a sense of the victim here that gives the book a different dimension - a connection with the normally voiceless.
It's very pleasing to read that his "first book" in the Malin Fors series went straight into the bestseller charts. Sounds like there are more around to look forward to.