With a career that is spiraling out of control and a nasty drug habit that has taken her to rock bottom, NYC detective Veronika Brand is looking for a way out. When a call from Sweden interrupts her personal chaos, the foreign tongue of her distant Swedish relatives pulls her across the Atlantic with the lure of adventure and escape. But what she finds is far from the idyllic picture her grandmother painted. Instead of long languid summers basking in the midnight sun, she unearths secrets long since buried in the frozen ground.
In Krister Hammar, a local Sami land rights lawyer, she thinks she has found a kindred spirit. But when they stumble upon a brutal murder scene in a manor house owned by the rivals of her family, she starts questioning his truth. She finds herself being moved like a chess piece between the desolate region of Härjedalen in the north and the steely-cold streets of Stockholm, scrambling to find the links between her family history, a trail of missing Roma girls, and a series of vicious murders. In unfamiliar territory on the wrong side of the law, Veronika has her sights set only on the beast that preys on the wicked. Will she be able to see past the lure of the northern lights to the dark secrets that threaten to destroy her?
[Note: I chose this novel as my maternal grandmother was 100% Swedish having immigrated to Minnesota, one of the many “sons.” I thought I’d give some time to the Swedish side as I always seem to favor the Irish side, i.e. Reading Ireland Month—March, coming up. Hubby found the ebook first, however, and got a bit of culture shock. It is, after all, described as Nordic noir or Scanoir and does tend to run dark. As Donna Moreau (author of Waiting Wives mentioned), “it is an intriguing family saga intertwined with the …mysterious Roma people.” Aware of the impact of the Irish Travelers in Ireland, the Romani people are not genetically related and represent a much larger population in Sweden*. A surprising revelation.]
Revenge is a dish best served cold! Can an eighty year old crime between families continue to this day? The tale of the Hatfields and McCoys compares closely with the ongoing animosity between the Dalgren and Voss families. Veronika Brand is the granddaughter of the Dalgren family and is invited back to Sweden to attend a family reunion for her 95 year old relative.
In 1940 when the Nazi’s occupied Sweden, her ancestors began printing pro-Nazi propaganda after the country is occupied. A splinter group led by the family Voss decides to stop the paper by burning down the printing establishment. They are not aware that some of the Dalgrens are asleep in the apartment over the printing shop. The death of the Dalgrens in the fire starts the feud between the Dalgrens and Voss’.
The Voss family is very wealthy, ruthless and are involved in many nefarious endeavors including prostitution and slavery. They have the power. A vengeful Dalgren family is hardly a problem. The Voss family also owns and operates the largest trucking firm in Europe. Young Romani girls are kidnapped or otherwise drawn into a world of sex slavery and poor diets. They finally die from poor nutrition and continual sexual brutality from customers who use them in total depravity.
The inter-familial war of revenge is continual and brutal. Veronika Brand is a former New York detective who becomes embroiled in the conflict. Brutal murders and lack of any social responsibility drove me to the conclusion that this may not be a future vacation destination. Cruelty and death are portrayed as an integral part of the psyche of the northern Swedish families. There seemed to be no division between the young and old regarding a more innocent mind set.
The narrative is well written although exhausting to read. Continual brutal murder and total disregard for human life with wicked visuals of red snow were excessive. The ending, however, was satisfying and surprising! I kept wondering why a well-trained New York detective would stay in such a toxic environment! The conclusion explained a lot. 4 stars-CE Williams
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from publisher through NetGalley. These are my honest opinions.
Rosepoint Publishing: Four of Five Stars
Genre: Kidnapping Thrillers, International Mystery & Crime
Print Length: 302 pages
Publication Date: March 11, 2021
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
The Authors: Sarah Hollister is an American writer and playwright, living the Scandinavian reality on one of the 24,000 islands in the Swedish archipelago near Stockholm. Her plays Sisters’ Dance and Relevant Truth have been produced in New York City, and she is a member of the Dramatikerförbund (Sweden’s drama guild), which awarded her residences at the Henning Mankell House in northern Sweden. She is a founding member of the Stockholm Writers Festival.
A New York-based author, screenwriter and journalist, Gil Reavill often writes about crime, both in fiction, with the 13 series of thrillers (13 Hollywood Apes, 13 Stolen Girls, 13 Under the Wire) and non-fiction, with Mafia Summit and Aftermath, Inc. Reavill also co-wrote the screenplay for the corrupt-cop feature film, Dirty, starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. While growing up in Wisconsin, in the American Upper Midwest, I was surrounded with Nordic immigrant culture, Swedish, Norwegian, and Finnish communities. Later on, I discovered Henning Mankell, Karin Fossum, and, especially, Peter Hoeg’s Smilla’s Sense of Snow. I was interested in the cross-fertilization of American and Scandinavian crime fiction, the trans-Atlantic influences flowing both ways. –This text refers to the hardcover edition.
©2021 CE Williams – V Williams
*Swedish Romani info obtained from Wikipedia.