One cold morning in December, in a small rural town on the Swedish coast, Ake Melkersson is on his way to work when his car breaks down. Luckily he spots a garage nearby, but as he approaches he realises something is wrong. The owner of the garage lies dead, sprawled on the ground, his lower body crushed where a car has repeatedly driven over him. The murder investigation is led by Inspector Christian Tell who is something of a lone wolf. But he has very few clues to go on and the deceased's wife is out of the country on holiday. Ten years earlier Maya Granith is living at a college for troubled teenagers after escaping her shattered home and her neurotic mother. But when an older student takes an overbearing interest in her things begin to go wrong. Back in the present, another murder occurs when a man is shot in the head; again his body has been driven over several times. Tell is becoming increasingly involved with a female reporter but as she witness on the first case, their relationship is complicated - especially when aspects of the case remind the reporter of someone she knew who went missing 10 years earlier.
Read by Jonathan KeebleTranslation © Marlaine Delargy 2010
First published in Sweden as Fruset ögonblick in 2009 by Wahlström & Widstrand.
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Routine but enjoyable
Ignoring the question here... I'm no expert on crime fiction. I understand there are two main kinds: the one where the reader/listener is driven by curiosity about whodunnit, and is concerned mostly with the clues, and the other in which the murders mainly provide focus to the author's musings on life, the universe and everything. This book is very much in the latter category, as numerous characters share their life stories and ponder on such stunning revelations as: relationships often require more effort than we're prepared to make, and life often doesn't turn out as planned.
I expected to have much more difficulty following the story than I did, seeing as how there are a lot of characters, all with Swedish names, some with nicknames, some with changed surnames, some referred to almost exclusively by their first name then suddenly by their surname hours later and so on. But on the whole it was fairly easy. Remembering who was related to whom, who liven next door to whom and so on was occasionally a little harder, but I found that if I went with the flow it became clear.
I had a few niggles. If I were a senior investigating officer, and I fell head over heels for one of the witnesses, and I knew the feeling was mutual, I'd probably suggest we put things on hold until the case has been solved. I don't think I'd try to keep the relationship secret from my boss, then suddenly end it in case I get found out.
Also, nearly every scene begins with a pronoun: "He walked into his apartment..." or "She nervously picked up the phone..." but His or Her identity isn't revealed for several sentences. It's fairly easy to guess who the person is, but it's a little bit annoying.
We also get a few too many instances of telepathy - if a character is thinking about the time in his childhood when an aunt bought him some ginger biscuits, and he could do with a ginger biscuit right now, another character will suggest he buy some ginger biscuits "as if she had read his thoughts."
The prose is clear, sometimes vivid, occasionally a little cliched; I winced at least once, though that might have been the translator's fault.
How is this question different to the previous one?
On the whole I really like his character voices, even though one or two sound a teensy bit like women played by men in Monty Python: "How did he know there was a penguin on top of the TV set?"
It kept me reasonably interested, and that's why I gave the story 4 stars rather than 3. Although I enjoyed it, I don't feel I'd have been any the poorer if I hadn't.
- Dr Caterpillar
A good listen
- p m wootton-davies