In The Heat of the Moment by Viveca Sten (Sandhamn Murders, Book 5)

On the longest day of the year, the tiny island of Sandhamn is overrun by people who want to party.  They turn up on the ferry and dock their boats in the harbour and drink until they can’t drink anymore.  As the police patrol the area, their job is to contain the crowds and make sure the fun people are having doesn’t turn sinister.

Unfortunately, this time, they aren’t that successful and, in the early hours of the morning, the body of a teenager is discovered hidden on an isolated beach.  He’s been badly beaten.  More unfortunate still for the police, the island is full of potential suspects, not just the teenagers girlfriend and his best friend, both of whom were missing during the hours the murder took place and too drunk to remember what happened.

There were so many people on the island and, as they start to drift away, the police are in a race against time to get statements and try and figure out just who ended the young boys life.  Leading the case is one of the central characters, Thomas, a dogged and instinctive detective who is normally helped by his best friend Nora, though never in an official capacity.  Nora, though has problems of her own as her boyfriend’s daughter didn’t come home that night and no one knows where she is.  

Guiltless by Viveca Sten

The tiny Swedish island of Sandhamn has always been a haven for lawyer Nora Linde. With trouble brewing in her marriage, she finds its comforts more welcome than ever, even in the depths of winter. That is, until her two young sons trip across a severed arm in the woods.

The boys’ gruesome discovery will once again connect Nora with her childhood friend Thomas Andreasson, now a local police detective. When the limb is identified as belonging to a twenty-year-old woman who disappeared without a trace months earlier, what had been a missing persons case takes on a whole new urgency.

Nora and Thomas delve deeply into the woman’s final hours, each of them wrestling not only with the case but with the private demons it awakens in them. As they do, they’ll find themselves drawn into the history of Sandhamn and the tensions that have been simmering just below the surface for more than a hundred years.

Guiltless is my third trip to Sandhamn, a small island off the Swedish coast with a population of only a couple of hundred people but – seemingly – a lot of murder.  I have to say, it sounds beautiful there, but – given the death count – I would think twice before visiting.

This time, the victim is a young girl, missing for months before Nora’s boys find her body. She is an island native (vs. the visitors that flood the island in the summer) and so her death is possibly more shocking than it might have been otherwise and the small community are rocked to it’s core.  The question is why and who?

It’s a question Nora finds herself in the middle of, not just because her sons found the body but because her best friend, Thomas, is investing the case.  Nora and Thomas make an interesting team.  They don’t investigate together as such but they do use each other to bounce ideas off, as well as supporting each other in life in general.

I like their relationship (purely platonic) and both Nora and Thomas as individuals and I think it is this that keeps bringing me back to the series.  They are genuinely nice people, the type I would want to know.  Their friendships seems natural and I can only commend Sten for how well she has created these two people.

Her plots too are pretty good.  There is a simplicity to them when you first start reading but soon the twists start coming and you don’t really know where you are.  Clever.  At the same time, a word that does pop to mind when describing her novels is gentle because you aren’t being beaten over the head with wild card detectives or omnipotent killers.  There is an old fashioned element here, a lot of who dunit and (thankfully) very little in the way of gruesome.

This style fits me perfectly more often now I find.  I don’t like lots of gore with my crime and I am tiring of detectives that go out on their own and don’t listen to anyone else on their team, usually whilst not sleeping, not eating and drinking too much.  There is none of that in Thomas, and I like it.  I also liked the book – a lot – and definitely recommend it (including for those who haven’t read the first two – it’s definitely a standalone).

Enjoy!

Emma x

liked-it-a-lot

Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Amazon Crossing
Publication Date: 23rd May, 2017 (originally published 2010)
Format: ebook
Pages: 370
Genre: mystery / crime
Find on: Amazon UK / Amazon US / Goodreads

Note: I received this book in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own. 

Other books in the Sandhamn Series…

Still WatersClosed Circles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dinosaur Feather by Sissel-Jo Gazan

10240235How could one man inspire such hatred?

Professor Lars Helland is found at his desk with his tongue lying in his lap. A violent fit has caused him to bite through it in his death throes. A sad but simple end. Until the autopsy results come through.

The true cause of his death – the slow, systematic and terrible destruction of a man – leaves the police at a loss. And when a second member of Helland’s department disappears, their attention turns to a postgraduate student named Anna. She’s a single mother, angry with the world, desperate to finish her degree. Would she really jeopardise everything by killing her supervisor?

As the police investigate the most brutal and calculated case they’ve ever known, Anna must fight her own demons, prove her innocence and avoid becoming the killer’s next victim.

So The Dinosaur Feather is the oldest book I own and haven’t read.  I bought it in October 2012 and it has languished on my Kindle ever since. Inspired by reading the book that was previously the oldest unread book I owned (The Dead Room by Chris Mooney) and how I wish I hadn’t waited as long, I set myself a personal challenge this year of reading the books at the bottom of the reading pile.  This one was next on my list and, unfortunately, the results weren’t as good as I might have hoped.

The Dinosaur Feather sounds like it should be right up my street but I just couldn’t get into it.  There is a slow start, where Anna (the main character) is caught up in a dream before it moves onto pages and pages of explanation of who she is and why she was having the dream – she is due to finish her doctorate on whether birds are descendent from dinosaurs.   The pace never picks up.  I didn’t check the page count but it has to be 100 or so pages before we get to the murder Anna has to solve to prove her innocence.

Which brings me to my next problem with the book – the blurb saying Anna must “prove her innocence and avoid becoming the killer’s next victim”.  Neither of these things are true, unless I missed a bit of the book (it’s possible it was on a page I skimmed in order to keep going).  The detective (Soren) in charge of the investigation doesn’t think she did it and Anna’s life is never under threat.  I felt slightly cheated as a result, and even less inclined to try to like the book.

The third thing that caused me issues was Anna herself…she is really unlikeable, even her friends as good as say it.  It’s passed off as a fiery personality but it wasn’t.  She was selfish to the core, leaving her daughter at the drop of a hat and treating her friends and family like they were there to serve.  I have to say I kind of hoped she was guilty so they would arrest her – serving her right for being a pain.

Add to this a series of sub-plots around Anna’s childhood and Soren’s past and it was all very confusing and very long.  The book is over 500 pages and I felt every one.  I hate being scathing about books because I know the authors have put a lot of work into them, but here I am really struggling to find something positive to say.

The writing was o.k., though it was too wordy for me (I don’t know how much of that was down to the translation?), and I think in there was a good story if the “extras” could have been cut out – the sub-plots but also the pages and pages of the science behind bird feathers.  It didn’t add to the book and it made me want to skip ahead, never a good sign.

So, all in all, I am sorry to say, this wasn’t a book for me and not one I can recommend.

Sorry!

Emma x

not-for-me

Source: Purchased
Publisher: Quercus Books
Publication Date: 2008
Format: ebook
Pages: 536
Genre: mystery / crime
Find on: Amazon UK / Amazon US / Goodreads

Tuesday Intro: The Girl In The Spider's Web

imageThis week, I’m linking up again with Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea who hosts a post every Tuesday for people to share the first chapter / paragraph of the book they are reading, or thinking of reading soon. In really enjoy these tasters when I read them on other blogs so wanted to join in.

This week, I’m reading The Girl in The Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz.  It’s the fourth book in the Millenium Trilogy (which I’m not sure should be allowed as the numbering messes with my mind).  I am quite nervous about this as I loved the first three books but with a different author.  I never normally read series that are taken over by other authors but this has good reviews and it was a present so I’m giving it a go.

Here’s what it’s about…

24789156She is the girl with the dragon tattoo—a genius hacker and uncompromising misfit. He is a crusading journalist whose championing of the truth often brings him to the brink of prosecution.

Late one night, Blomkvist receives a phone call from a source claiming to have information vital to the United States. The source has been in contact with a young female superhacker—a hacker resembling someone Blomkvist knows all too well. The implications are staggering. Blomkvist, in desperate need of a scoop for Millennium, turns to Salander for help. She, as usual, has her own agenda. The secret they are both chasing is at the center of a tangled web of spies, cybercriminals, and governments around the world, and someone is prepared to kill to protect it . . .

This is how it starts…

This story begins with a dream, and not a particularly spectacular one at that. Just a hand beating rhythmically and relentlessly on a mattress in a room on Lundagatan.

Yet it still gets Lisbet Salander out of her bed in the early light of dawn. Then she sites at her computer and starts the hunt.

What do you think, would you keep reading?

Emma

 

 

Closed Circles by Viveca Sten

imageIt’s a beautiful day for a regatta—until one of Sandhamn Island’s most prestigious residents is killed aboard his sailing yacht.

Oscar Juliander was a rich lawyer and deputy chairman of the prestigious Royal Swedish Yacht Club. While at first his death seems like a tragic accident, there is evidence of foul play. Police detective Thomas Andreasson teams up with local lawyer Nora Linde to investigate. As they work to uncover clues, they face resistance from an elite world where nothing but appearance matters.

When the rich and powerful inhabitants of Sweden’s idyllic island getaway come under scrutiny, Thomas and Nora must work closely and secretively to seek justice.

After reading Still Waters last year, I was really looking forward to picking up Closed Circles, the second in the series set on Sandhamn island, the summer retreat of Sweden’s wealthier residents.  The setting sounds idyllic with beautiful views and blue waters – just the type of place I would like a holiday home…that is if I could afford it – and people didn’t keep getting murdered.

The murders destroy the island’s calm and make the resident’s anxious.  Last’s summers murder were, they were sure, an anomaly.  Now there are more.  And worse, they are targeting the have’s vs. the have nots, respected members of the community.  It is also a closed community, one with plenty of secrets that they don’t want to share with the detective in charge, Thomas.

Thankfully, he’s dedicated and dogged and unlikely to give up.  He’s also really likeable and pretty well balanced, avoiding the many stereotypes of dysfunctional police officers with family issues and drinking problems.  Whilst not everything in his life is perfect, he handles it like a grown up – and manages to set it aside when working on the case.  His best friend Nora is equally as likeable and became much more of a “real” person to me in this book.

A lawyer at a bank, she spends her summers on Sandhamn so it makes perfect sense for Thomas to ask for her help on the case.  They don’t, however, like the blurb suggests, team up.  Instead, she is on the periphery of the investigation – though does help it come to it’s conclusion. I could have felt cheated by this if I hadn’t been so caught up in Nora’s own story, which runs parallel to the investigation and isn’t crime related at all but very personal.

This might have been a distraction but wasn’t at all, a testament I think to how well both characters were developed and how well written (and translated) the book was.  It had a good pace and a good plot – simple but with plenty of twists and turns that kept me guessing until close to the end and, as a result, I liked it a lot.

The only downside to it is that it might not make much sense if you haven’t read the first book, the events of which very much drive Nora in this one.  I am not sure it can stand on it’s own without being confusing.  So, my overall recommendation? Well worth a read (after you’ve read Still Waters!).

 

Emma

 

 

Tuesday Intro: Closed Circles by Viveca Sten

imageThis week, I’m linking up again with Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea who hosts a post every Tuesday for people to share the first chapter / paragraph of the book they are reading, or thinking of reading soon. I really enjoy these tasters when I read them on other blogs so wanted to join in.

This week, I’m reading Closed Circles by Viveca Sten.  It’s the second in the Sandhamn series and, as I really enjoyed the first of these, Still Waters, I have high hopes.  Here’s what it’s about…

imageIt’s a beautiful day for a regatta—until one of Sandhamn Island’s most prestigious residents is killed aboard his sailing yacht.

Oscar Juliander was a rich lawyer and deputy chairman of the prestigious Royal Swedish Yacht Club. While at first his death seems like a tragic accident, there is evidence of foul play. Police detective Thomas Andreasson teams up with local lawyer Nora Linde to investigate. As they work to uncover clues, they face resistance from an elite world where nothing but appearance matters.

When the rich and powerful inhabitants of Sweden’s idyllic island getaway come under scrutiny, Thomas and Nora must work closely and secretively to seek justice.

And here’s how it starts…

“The woman’s voice slowly counted down over Channel 16 on the marine radio: “Ten, nine, eight…”

The water churned with boats. Several large racing sailboats, meant for the open sea with their enormous sails and shining hulls, crowded the starting line a few nautical miles from Sandhamn.  Beyond the starting area, observers maneuvered their boats to get the best view, prepared to follow the spectacle with binoculars.

The starting vessel, a minesweeper on loan from the navy, was positioned to the starboard of the starting line. Everywhere, large sails ballooned to capture the slight breeze.

The scene was perfectly set for an exciting race.

The voice continued: “Seven, six…”

What do you think, would you keep on reading?

Emma

 

The Last Lullaby by Carin Gerhardsen

imageInspector Conny Sjöberg and his police colleagues are perplexed by the brutal killing of a family in their Stockholm apartment.

With no clues, the murder inquiry starts with working out how was it possible for the mother, who worked as a cleaner, to afford a multi-million dollar property?

Despite a heavily reduced team, with experienced officers ill, injured or mysteriously missing, Sjöberg struggles to keep the investigation on the rails. But Conny has problems of his own – from a woman he cannot get out of his head, to a shocking revelation about his own past – all of which threaten to compromise the hunt for this heartless killer…

I feel like I should start this post by standing up and saying “Hi, my name is Emma and I’m addicted to books by Carin Gerhardsen” because this is third I’ve read in as many months.  Unfortunately, it is likely to the be last in a while as I’ve now caught up with series – a shame as I am officially hooked on the characters and what will happen to them next.  With each book the cast of detectives have become more well rounded and complex as their back stories are revealed, influencing the way they behave and the actions they take, including occasionally distracting them from their investigations.

In the Last Lullaby they are searching for the killer of a mother and her two young children.  When the description above says brutal, it is, though not gory – just shocking.  It also seems to be totally random.  The team can’t seem to find any reason anyone would want to kill the family or any prime suspects, though there is a mystery man they are keen to find.  Adding to their frustration is the fact that a key member of their team has gone absent without giving notice, meaning they are resourced and Sonny is having to do a lot of the legwork himself, rather than leading.

As with the other books in the series, the story is told in days, with each day (or part of a day) being a chapter.  This can make them quite long but they are broken up by looking at what different characters are doing on that particular day/time.  I like how this makes it feel like the investigation is unfolding “real-time” – like I’m discovering things at the same time as the detectives.

The writing style is sparse, though there is probably a better word for it, with not a word wasted and the plot fairly simple, focusing on the one killing and the back story of one detective in particular.  It was, however, no les enjoyable as a result because it is well written and has a good pace – not really letting up till the end.   A real page turner – I liked this one a lot!

Emma

 

 

Cinderella Girl by Carin Gerhardsen

21899209When three year old Hanna wakes up, she is alone in a locked apartment. The following morning detective Petra Westman from the Hammarby police department finds a badly injured infant and a dead woman in a park. Oddly – no one seems to be missing them. Before the police investigation barely has time to begin, yet another dead body is found. This time it is a teenage girl, murdered on a cruise. The investigation team moves from one dead body to another, attempting to find a common thread and stop the brutal violence.

I love crime novels set in Sweden, don’t ask me why and so I had to pick up Cinderella Girl when I saw it at the library, even though I hadn’t heard of Carin Gerhardsen before.  I am glad I did because it’s a recommended read.

The story opens with a young mother, home alone, with a crying baby – a baby that thanks to a throat infection hasn’t slept for days.  She is exhausted herself and just needs him to sleep.  In desperation she decides – despite it being the middle of the night – that a walk in his pram might do it.  And so she heads out.  Across town, two sisters aged 14 and 16 are also heading out, escaping their drunken mom and her drunken friends and looking for something to occupy them.  You just know it isn’t going to end well.   And for most of them it doesn’t.

One of the things I liked about this book was how the story was told – in days, with you finding out what each person (including the detectives) are doing at a particular time.  It means that you get a great insight into each character and also see how each strand of the story – which you know have to be related but you aren’t sure how – are coming together.  With each interaction everything starts to fall into place – for you as the reader and for the police.  When I finally got to the end, I felt really satisfied with how things had worked out, although for little Hanna life would never be the same again and I can see years of therapy in her future!

It was a clever and different way to tell a tale and kept my interest throughout.  The characters were well developed, though there were perhaps a few too many police officers to keep track of on the periphery.  However, there is a sub-plot involving Petra that I want to know more about.  To do that, I’ll have to go back to book one as that’s where “it”, whatever “it” is, all started – and I will (I already have the book on hold at the library) because this was a really good read.  Liked it a lot.

Emma

 

 

 

Still Waters by Viveca Sten

imageWhen the body of Krister Berggren washes up on the beach on the island of Sandhamn, the obvious choice to send to investigate is Inspector Thomas Andreasson, who spent his childhood summers there.

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!

Emma

Blood on Snow by Jo Nesbo

image

Olav is a fixer, in that he fixes people’s death. And he’s good at it. He works for one man, Hoffman, though he thinks of himself as a contractor able to pick and chose his jobs. When Hoffman asks him to kill his wife, Olav realises things aren’t that clear cut. Especially when he falls in love with said wife, Corina, and decides to rescue her instead. Now both have prices on their heads and Olav sets out to find a way out of the mess he’s created.

Despite presenting himself as someone who isn’t that smart (and seeming to believe it), Olav is a pretty clever guy, giving Hoffman a run for his money and coming up with a fairly novel solution to his problem. It’s a solution that involves a bit of bloodshed but nowhere near as much as I would normally expect from Jo Nesbo. This was a nice surprise and not at all unwelcome as I don’t seem to have the stomach for blood and guts I once did and Nesbo’s Harry Hole series can be rather gruesome.

The other thing that was different is that this was a fairly simple story. Normally, in the Harry Hole novels there are plots and sub-plots and red herrings galore. Here, the story was all about Olav and, other than some flashbacks to his childhood, what he was doing to save himself and Corina. I liked this and I liked Olav. He was an interesting character and well drawn, unlike Croina and everyone else in the book who were two dimensional at best and who I didn’t care for one way or the other.

Part of this might have been down to the fact that this was a short book, coming in around 200 pages. In fact, it didn’t feel like a novel but a novella or long short story. I didn’t mind this as at all but hadn’t expected it. If I’d have bought the book instead of getting it from the library I might have felt a little cheated. Thankfully I hadn’t paid £12.99 so I was able to accept it for what it was. A good story, and a solid one that I liked a lot but didn’t love. Still, worth a read.

Emma