At first, Thomas thinks Krister’s death is an accident, maybe a suicide, rather than murder. But something doesn’t feel quite right and he digs a little deeper. Then, Krister’s cousin – Kicki – turns up dead too (also on Sandhamn) and Thomas digs deeper still, uncovering more secrets than maybe even he intended.
Despite being a popular place with tourists, Sandhamn is also the home to residents who guard their way of life carefully and live by a set of rules outsiders can find hard to understand. Even those who have visited the island all their lives, like Thomas, don’t know quite how far some will go to protect their way of life and their secrets, of which there are many.
The same can be said of his childhood friend, Nora, who is holidaying there with her family. She too spent her summers on Sandhamn. Her family own a house there and she thinks she knows the island well. It’s this belief that puts her in danger as she finds herself helping Thomas without even being asked, putting her legal skills and financial knowledge (she works in a bank) to good use in trying to find an answer for the murders.
I really liked Nora and Thomas and they made a good team. Both were well-rounded and Viveca Sten has created a world around them of family and friends that make them feel solid, people I want to care about and who I believed in. This was important as this book wasn’t one where there was a murder on every page to distract you from plot development. It was, instead, a book that set the scene and then took you through the process of figuring out just who was responsible and why. I really liked the style and it reminded me a little of Louise Penny in that the characters were normal people and the police officers weren’t completely dysfunctional and had home lives (imagine!).
The setting played it’s part too. The closed quality of the community whose way of life was being affected by the influx of tourists and people wanting to own second homes instead of live on the island. The shock it feels when the murders happen because, well, those things don’t on Sandhamn.
On her website, Viveca Sten says she, like Thomas and Nora, spent her summers there and her descriptions suggest she not only knows the place well but has a real affection for it. There are photos on her website of Sandhamn and I can see why, it’s beautiful. Too beautiful for there to be murderers living amongst its residents but the perfect setting for the story and those to follow – this is the first in a series of books staring Thomas and Nora, ones I will definitely be reading. Loved it!