Review: Mons Kallentoft – Summertime Death

I was a little disappointed not to see the first book by Mons Kallentoft, Midwinter Sacrifice, on the International Dagger shortlist. I thought it an excellent début and I liked the multiple narrative voices. However, the book did get some mixed reviews and the style might not have been to everyone’s taste. Nevertheless, I was interested see how the second book by the writer, Summertime Death, would continue the series.

The setting for this latest book is the stultifying heat of summer in Linköping , a town in southern Sweden. The heat means that most of the population has left the town, including police detective Malin For’s daughter Tove and her ex-husband Janne. Although initially it looks like Malin will have a slow summer, the discovery of a young girl, naked and injured in the town’s botanical gardens means that they are looking for a particularly savage rapist. Unfortunately, the girl is unable to remember anything of the ordeal and the team have to rely on forensic evidence to try and find the perpetrator. When a second girl is murdered and the team can link together the two cases, the hunt is on to find the disturbed individual before he or she strikes again.

Summertime Death was a very enjoyable read which had me turning the pages as I raced to the denouement. The character of Malin Fors came across very well in the first book and I liked that fact that in the second, the author reined in the emphasis on Malin’s drinking and other problems and set her firmly in the investigation. However, when her ex-husband and daughter returned from Bali I felt the book lost some of its pace. I’m never convinced by plot devices where murderer stops choosing random victims and instead focuses on the family of the detectives. This clearly doesn’t happen in real life and I don’t think it particularly works in crime fiction.

The narrative voices contained in the book were all excellently done and movingly written. Kallentoft’s strength is his writing and, once again, I enjoyed his use of language and imagery. My only criticism would be that the structure was very similar to the first novel, for example with the narrative voice of a dead girl, and it would be nice to see the writer break out from this particular model and experiment more. There were some interesting assumptions made in the investigation, particularly relating to a lesbian angle to the assaults which I thought had been arrived at a slightly odd manner but the writer did follow through this thread to the end of the story.