Ingrid Olsson returns home from a Stockholm hospital to discover a man in her kitchen. She’s never seen the intruder before. But he’s no threat – he’s dead.
Criminal Investigator Conny Sjöberg takes the call, abandoning his wife Åsa and their five children for the night. His team identify the body as that of a middle-aged family man. But why was he there? And who bludgeoned him to death?
Lacking suspect and motive, Sjöberg’s team struggle until they link the case to another – apparently random – killing. And discover they face a serial killer on a terrible vendetta . . .
The Gingerbread House is the first in the Hammarby series, set in Stockholm and following a team of detectives led by Conny Sjoberg. Not that long ago, I read the second in the series, Cinderella Girl, which I really enjoyed. However, there were elements of the plot that I didn’t quite get because they linked to book one, which I immediately went and requested from the library. It arrived this week and I couldn’t wait to read it.
Plot wise, this wasn’t as complex as Cinderella Girl, but it was clever, leading you down one path and – you think – to one suspect before turning things on their head – and, despite their being a very angry serial killer at the centre, doing it without too much blood, guts and gore. And I say angry but there is childhood bullying at the heart of this so it might be better to say sad serial killer (not a spoiler as this is part of the prologue). It is amazing how cruel children, and adults, can be to each other.
The Gingerbread House was well written and translated with quite a sparse style. The story was told in days so you get to follow the investigation as it develops and the deterioration of the killer at the same time. I liked this. I didn’t have to follow too many timelines and, with a pretty large number of characters, this made it easier than if they had each had their own chapters.
That said, there is a sub-plot involving one character, Petra, which is where I felt I was missing something in book 2 as it is this that is carried forward. I am glad to say gaps are now filled. It was also good to understand a bit more about where Petra was coming from. Her character felt well-developed and I would say The Gingerbread House takes time to introduce all the characters; Sjoberg especially is well-rounded with a wife, children and fairly normal home life (always nice to see versus the drink-addled detective I find in a lot of books). It made me like them and the book (a lot). – this is a great and recommended read.