72E2C812-2560-4B9E-AAEA-A3DE4F807B33Winner Swedish Academy of Crime Writers’ Award (Best Swedish Crime Novel 2018)

Translated from Swedish by Susan Beard

This is my kind of crime novel.

Psychological, tense, perfectly paced.  Mirrored and reflective plotting, without reliance on expletives for effect. Not overly graphic.  Don’t get me wrong.  There are dark deeds at its heart, and there are violent scenes, but with just enough detail, leaving the rest for me to imagine … or not, depending on how I want to play it.

Stina Jackson also avoids that pet hate of mind, the crime genre’s equivalent of clickbait – an horrendously graphic prologue detailing a crime that will appear later on.  Instead she catapults us straight into the grief and tumult of Lelle Gustafsson’s mind, a father who, after dropping his daughter at the bus stop, was the last person to see her alive.  That was three years ago and Lelle still hasn’t stopped searching for her.  During summer months, when there is no darkness, he drives up and down The Silver Road, inspecting all the sidetracks, abandoned shacks and houses in the pine forest of the Swedish wilderness. The police may have given up on Lina, but he hasn’t.

At the same time, 17-year old Meja arrives in the vicinity.  Let’s just say she has been dragged up by her mentally ill and alcohol- and drug-dependant mother, Silje.  Moving from pillar to post to outrun social services.  This latest move into the home of Torbjorn, a somewhat sleazy geezer Silje has found on the internet, who will offer them food, shelter and stability.  But Meja has had enough of Silje’s irresponsibility and waiting for her next mental breakdown …. so when she falls in love with a caring, young  Carl-Johan, she takes opportunity to move in with him and his survivalist clan in a neighbouring property.

At which point, another girl is abducted.

This sends Lelle into a further feverish activity – not all of which is safe undertaking.  Meje learns that life in a closeknit family can be lonelier than that with a needy mother.  And because Lelle recognises signs of withdrawal in Meje (he is her teacher), he begins to watch out for her.  And that is where the mystery of his daughter’s disappearance begins to unravel.

I was gripped by this.  So long stretches of intensely concentrated reading meant that I did pick up on the tiniest of clues, and I knew who was behind what.  That spoiled not a thing, because there’s more to Stina Jackson’s debut than just the crime: the landscape, the foreboding darkness of the plot in contrast to the brightness of the midnight sun, the tortured relationships of the emotionally damaged, stories of true friendships, enduring bumpy rides.

I’ve said it once, but let me say it again.

This is my kind of crime novel.