Thursday, October 18, 2012

Review of "Midwinter Blood"

Midwinter Blood: A Thriller by Mons Kallentoft 
Atria/Emily Bestler Books, ISBN 978-1451642476
June 5, 2012, 464 pages

When Inspector Malin Fors and her partner Zeke Martinsson are called to investigate a dead body, they come upon a murder scene that is about as bleak as bleak can be.
In a snow covered field is a lone oak tree and hanging from the tree is the beaten and tortured, naked body of a very dead, very obese man. It is a murder that brings to mind the “midwinter blood” sacrifices of Viking times, a theory they actually consider for a time, because in this Internet age, all sorts of strange people get involved in all sort of strange rituals.

But while the death of Bengt Andersson, an eccentric loner, may have it's roots in the past, it is not a past that goes back quite that far. Or one that is unrelated to some other horrible and violent crimes both past and present. That pure white winter landscape can hide some very dark deeds.

There are some things I liked quite a bit about this book.
I will admit I am a fan of these rather bleak Scandinavian mysteries, red blood against that pure white snow, the brutal cold.
And the author, Mons Kallentoft has quite a reputation. Midwinter Blood is the first in a series he was written about Malin Fors and the books have been very popular in Sweden.
Without question, the best thing about the book is Fors. As I have often said we love our flawed cops and Fors is indeed flawed. The divorced mother of a 13 year old daughter who lives with her, she appears on the edge of a very serious alcohol problem. Then there is the reporter she seems to hate, but not enough to stop sleeping with him, an ex-husband she can't quite cut herself off from and she is really a pretty lousy mother. Not that those things would necessarily stop us from liking our fictional cop!
OK, that is the good news.

Now the problems.
This book is slow, at times painfully slow. Too slow. Big and sloooow.
There is a much better 300 pages book hiding in this 450+ page one. 
I will admit that I was forced to skim a bit to reach the end, a shameful thing. I was losing interest, but had to find out what happened. Which is still a good thing, I guess, that I cared.

And then there is Bengt, the dead man. Yes, he is dead, but that does not stop him being one of the narrators of the book, observing and commenting on things as he watches them trying to solve his murder. It sounds a bit forced, and is sometimes confusing, but it could have worked. Except for the fact that the Bengt that is talking to us seems nothing like the Bengt whose life and history the police uncover. Odd. Maybe you get a lot more insightful once you are dead.

As I said, this is the first in the series, written in 2007 but just translated into English this year. There are four additional books already written and I assume see will see them in the US market soon, as popular as these Scandinavian mysteries have become.
But I am not sure I will be back for another.


  1. I agree, there is something atmospheric about these Scandinavian murder mystery novels, but not all of them can ride that bandwagon and succeed. It only gives them a five minute head start. I would consider you a pretty decent barometer in these matters, so I'll take your advice and stay away from this one.

  2. It sounds like this could have used a good edit. I think I'll skip it.

  3. What a shame. This sounds like it could have been really good.


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