April is my favourite month of the year and, although spring has come late to Derbyshire, the cold weather encouraged lots of reading. I read eight books in April, and I can see from my list that only two of them were by women. I normally try for a better balance than that so I must make a concerted effort in May to read more books by women. It was good to read books in series that are fast becoming my favourites, including those by Stav Sherez, William Ryan and S J Bolton.
My book of the month, however, was the fourth in a series that has become one of my ‘must reads’. Savage Spring by Mons Kallentoft brought together many of the strands of earlier books to produce a gripping and thought-provoking narrative.
The eight books I read for crimepieces were:
1. The Wreck of the Margherita by Bill Todd
2. Nordic Noir by Barry Forshaw
3. We Are Here by Michael Marshall
4. Savage Spring by Mons Kallentoft
5. The Twelfth Department by William Ryan
6. Blessed Are Those Who Thirst by Anne Holt
7. Eleven Days by Stav Sherez
8. Like This For Ever by S J Bolton
Kerrie, at Mysteries in Paradise, is collating the pick of the month from crime fiction bloggers around the world.
Mons Kallentoft is a writer who divides his readers. I’ve reviewed all the books that have been translated into English on this blog and many of the comments, either here or on other reviewers’ sites, suggest that not everyone enjoys Kallentoft’s unusual style of prose. But the series has become one of my ‘must reads’ and I think that the latest book Savage Spring is one of his best.
In the main square of Linköping in Sweden, an explosion outside a bank kills six-year-old twin girls and their mother is seriously injured in the blast. Detective Inspector Malin Fors is called to the scene from her mother’s funeral and like the rest of the team is shocked by the apparently meaningless atrocity. The pain of her estrangement from her own mother, which has its roots in her loveless upbringing, has to be put aside to bring justice for the two girls. However, Malin’s newly acquired sobriety is put to the test by the stresses of the case, family relationships and revelations from the past.
Much of the previous book, Autumn Killing, was taken up with Malin’s descent into alcoholism which culminated in her being admitted into rehab. In Savage Spring, Malin is struggling to stay sober although the lure of drink is forever in her thoughts. The passages involving Malin’s mental state are written with a lighter touch in this book and worked much better alongside the murder investigation. Kallentoft is excellent at showing the long-term impact of alcoholism on a family and even ex-partners who look for new relationships that distance themselves from the past. We also get an insight into why Malin has such a destructive personality and family secrets that remain hidden for decades. These themes resonate with the investigation into the girls’ killing which is bound up with family and dysfunctional relationships. The murders are fairly difficult to read about as it involves small children, although interestingly it’s not always clear who is the abuser and the abused.
As we have come to expect from Kallentoft’s books, we get the voices of the dead, this time those of the two little girls. I thought it worked well here, perhaps because it added to the sense of loss although I appreciate that it’s not to everyone’s taste. The disjointed narrative is also a characteristic of the writer and one of reasons I enjoy the books so much. The fractured nature of the writing echoes both the plot and the characterisation and unsettles the reader to the conclusion.
Savage Spring is probably my favourite in the series to date and suggests the books are getting stronger with each new offering. I’d still like a resolution of the case that has been preoccupying Malin since the first book, Midwinter Sacrifice, but it seems that we are going to have to wait for this.
Thanks to Hodder for my copy of the book. The author’s website is here. The translation, as always excellent, was by Neil Smith.