This is the 8th instalment in the author's series featuring Hedstrom & Falck. It's the story of a woman who lost everything as a child & the 5 boys who knew her then. They're now adults & on a collision course to meet again as old secrets threaten to surface.
Common themes include nazism, antisemitism, the loss of a child & fire...what it destroys & what it leaves behind. Each of the 6 characters has been shaped by these events & whether they like it or not, the past is about to rear its ugly head.
Ebba was abandoned as a toddler after her family disappeared from the island of Valo. Their fate remains a mystery. After losing their son, she & her husband Tobias return to the old house with dreams of turning it into a B&B. It's a bit of a wreck & needs a lot of work, mirroring the state of their marriage.
In subsequent chapters we meet 5 men. They are all wealthy & successful but have little else in common. Yet they are bound by the events of one night on the island more than 20 years ago. For the first time, they are all in Fjallbacka & learning that Ebba is just across the water is stirring up old memories.
Meanwhile, main protagonists Patrik & Erica have their hands full with everyday life. Patrik is a local cop & Erica tries to carve out some time to write while caring for their 3 small children.
In alternating chapters beginning in 1908, we are told of another little girl who lost her family. As the story progresses, we learn the fate of 4 generations of women. Each of their lives was full of heartbreak & disappointment, spanning both world wars to the present. Eventually it becomes clear who these women are & I found myself more wrapped up in their stories than those of the present.
It all begins with strange events at the house on Valo. First, someone tries to burn it down as Ebba & Tobias sleep. Then sinister evidence is found beneath the floorboards. This brings Patrik & his team to the island & the old case file of Ebba's missing family is quickly exhumed. One of Patrik's colleagues was part of the original investigation & has closer ties than anyone knows.
As usual, Erica senses the opportunity for a book & begins to insinuate herself into the investigation. Before it's all over, she & Patrik will encounter betrayal, dirty politicians & personal danger.
This is not for someone looking for a realistic police procedural. Yes, there are shootouts & murders but oddly enough, it's more in the "cozy" vein of the genre. It's a clean read (no swearing, sex, etc) and Patrik & Erica come across as a modern day Nick & Nora. Also, her inclusion in police affairs stretches credibility & the investigation itself seems lax & full of holes. The author frequently uses Erica's tendency to rush off half cocked as a plot device to move things along but in the end, it's just irritating.
It's difficult to give examples without spilling the beans but the plot has some issues as well. No reason is given for a couple of events & the explanation for a major development is quickly glossed over & dropped.
I have read the others in this series & enjoyed them but I'm afraid this one missed the mark for me. The writing is simplistic & some of the phraseology was odd though this may be due to blips in translation. Each novel is centred around our intrepid couple but I actually found them the least interesting of all the characters & enjoyed the historical aspect of the book much more. Erica's inner Nancy Drew is allowed to run amok, leaving the reader shaking their head at her implausible actions & just plain dumb decisions. That no one on the police force, including Patrik, reins her in is completely unbelievable.
Maybe it's me. Maybe my tastes have changed. Maybe I've read too many books where the female lead portrayed as an amateur sleuth who out thinks the cops is used as a plot device. Either way, I doubt I'll continue with this series (TBR stack is already taking over the house...)
If you're an über-fan of Hedstrom & Falck, by all means grab it. If you haven't read this author, please ignore the comparison with Larsson & Nesbo that is trumpeted in the promotional blurb. Scandinavia is all they have in common.