“The jogger ran north along the water’s edge, the sand heavy underfoot after the night’s rain. At the promontory he turned and headed back down the beach. In the distance he saw a figure walking towards him. Suddenly the person stumbled and fell, then just lay there not moving. Feeling uneasy, he ran forward.
‘Are you all right?’
The face that turned towards him was expressionless, the eyes cold.
For the jogger, time seemed to stand still. Deep down inside him something came alive, something he had tried to bury for years.
Then he saw the muzzle of the gun. It was pointed straight at him. He sank to his knees; everything in his mind went still.”
When I read this paragraph from the The Dead of Summer by Mari Jungstedt, I immediately began to picture myself on the Swedish island of Gotska Sandön, the most isolated island in the Baltic sea. It is impossible not to be immediately drawn in to the story and while it is not fast-paced, it is alive with suspense and mystery. Jungstedt takes time to develop the relationships between the characters and is descriptive without being too wordy. This is important to those who may be reading this book out of sequence as it is easy to catch up on the earlier back-stories of the characters so the story makes more sense.
The story starts off with carpenter, Peter Bovide, who is camping with his wife and two young children, taking a run along the beach in the early morning fog. In the distance, he sees a stranger who appears to be in need of help, but when Peter approaches, he is shot in the head and several times in the stomach. Anders Knutas, the Detective Superintendent of the local police department is on vacation so the crime scene is secured by his deputy, Karin Jacobsson. Jacobsson is new to the position and is excited to lead such an important investigation but her joy is short-lived as Knutas abruptly cuts short his vacation and returns to the island.
The investigators, along with news reporter, Johan Berg, slowly begin to work their way through interview after interview of the victims family, friends and co-workers and it isn’t until another murder takes place that the motives begin to become clear.
While the book is well-written, some of the clues to solving the crime were a bit too obvious, however the plot was tight, flowed well and was logical. Sometimes, the characters behaved a bit unprofessionally and maybe a bit unbelievable. For example, I cannot imagine a detective going to confront a murder suspect without a weapon AND turning his cell phone off (or alone, for that matter). I’ve noticed the lack of carrying a service weapon quite often in Scandinavian crime novels and I’m not certain if this is, in fact, the case or if the writers haven’t researched the actual police procedures. It just comes across as a bit strange to readers in countries where the police are well-trained, well-armed and have strict investigation techniques.
There was an interesting (but timely) side story that touch lightly on the issue of foreign workers in Sweden. Some of the attitudes sounded familiar and I found it interesting how many similarities between two seemingly very different cultures. It also paints a very different side of Sweden, one that might be shocking to people who have not visited or are not knowledgeable about the Swedish culture.
The translation from Swedish to English was very good, though a lot of British-English phrases were used despite the translator being American. Translated books often have a special charm and sometimes the sentences may come across as child-like and the sentence structure a bit awkward at times. This doesn’t deter from the story itself, but is something to be aware of if the reader does not often read books translated from another language.
Swedish crime thriller author Mari Junstedt is is the author of the exciting & suspenseful crime series featuring police detective Anders Knutas. Since the 2003 release of Unseen (Den du inte ser), the first novel in the series, she has been recognized as part of the élite group of Swedish crime writers. The Dead of Summer is the fifth book in Jungstedt’s Gotland crime series.
Translated by: Tiina Nunnally
Published by: Stockholm Text Publishing AB
Date: May 15, 2012
Imprint: Stockholm Tex Publishing AB