Those of us who enjoyed MIDWINTER BLOOD by Mons Kallentoft last year --- and anyone else who is partial to hair-raising mysteries --- will rejoice at the publication of SUMMER DEATH. This second in the series of Malin Fors novels fulfills and exceeds the promise of its predecessor, combining the elements of a puzzling murder mystery, a chilling villain, and as much suspense as any novel you will read this year.
Malin Fors is a somewhat troubled police inspector in the municipality of Linkoping, located in south-central Sweden. There have been at least five books published in the series to date; SUMMER DEATH, originally released in Sweden in 2008, comes to us through the fine translation efforts of Neil Smith, who sharply captures and presents the personality nuances of Fors, her family, and, perhaps most importantly, her fellow officers on the Linkoping police force. Fors is the divorced mother of a teenage daughter and, as might be expected, is caught between the twin towers of career and parenthood, even as she attempts to sort out what went wrong with her marriage some 10 years previously.
"This second in the series of Malin Fors novels fulfills and exceeds the promise of its predecessor, combining the elements of a puzzling murder mystery, a chilling villain, and as much suspense as any novel you will read this year."
As SUMMER DEATH opens, Fors’s daughter and ex-husband are on vacation in Mali, while what Fors is experiencing is anything but a holiday. A raging fire in the wilderness surrounding the city seems to increase in ferocity by the day and defies the brave efforts of the firefighters tasked with controlling and extinguishing it. While the fire and an unseasonably warm summer function as an ever-present and uneasy backdrop to the book, Fors has more pressing professional concerns.
They begin when a teenage girl is found sexually assaulted and drugged in a park, while nearly simultaneously, another girl goes missing. The investigating team, which Fors is heading up, almost reflexively concludes that the two incidents are connected, which is confirmed by a tragic event in which subsequent forensic discoveries play a major part. Fors is also convinced that two friends of one of the girls know far more than they are admitting to, which proves to be dead-on as well.
Soon the problem isn’t so much that the Linkoping police force lacks for suspects in the case as that it could be any of them --- or none of them. And when a third victim is discovered, it becomes clear that the killer is by no means finished. Fors continues kicking over rocks and tugging at slender threads of evidence, attracting the attention of the killer who, in turn, decides to make the hunt personal in more ways than Fors ever could’ve anticipated.
Thrillers frequently employ a “ticking clock,” or what is also called an “option exhaustion,” as a device to propel the action in the book, particularly at the conclusion. SUMMER DEATH has a ticking clock as loud as the internal workings of Big Ben. You simply will not be able to read the last 70 pages or so quickly enough, even though you may well be afraid of what you will discover at the end.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on July 19, 2013