#26 / Mons Kallentoft, Midwinter Sacrifice

Mons Kallentoft, Midwinter Sacrifice, translated from the Swedish by Neil Smith (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2012 [2007]). An impressive debut and the first in a series featuring talented police investigator Malin Fors  4 stars

Opening line: Love and death are neighbours.

I tend to have an allergic reaction to any cover trumpeting that there’s a new Larsson or Nesbo in town, as nine times out of ten such claims are overblown. However, in the case of the debut novel Midwinter Sacrifice, author Mons Kallentoft shows that he can hold his own in such company at least, with a well-written, page-turner of a narrative, and an impressively-realised female detective.  

Set in the city of Linköping in southern Sweden, where the author was raised, the novel makes good use of a ferociously icy nordic winter and the landscapes of the region – dark forests and frozen plains – to create a lyrical, chilling backdrop for the opening crime: the murder and ritual hanging of a local man, who for much of his life was a social outsider. Malin Fors, a gifted police investigator who struggles to balance a demanding job with her role as a single parent following the break-up of her relationship, is called to the crime scene one cold February morning. Together with her partner Zeke, she begins to piece together the events that led to the murder, in a first-class police procedural that repeatedly makes you want to read on (just one more chapter, honest…).

The elements of this crime novel that I particularly liked were: Malin’s nuanced portrayal as a thirty-something woman dealing with the lifelong consequences of her teenage pregnancy; the thematisation of parenting, and the relationships between parents and children (whether infants, teenagers or adults); the depiction of the rest of the police team; the innovative use of the murder victim’s voice in parts of the narrative (difficult to pull off, but effectively done); and a surprise reference to Douglas Adams’ Life, the Universe and Everything (stylish).

The only aspect of the novel that jarred slightly for me was its ending, which was a little too melodramatic for my taste. However, I’m keen to follow Malin on her next case, in the series’ second novel, Summertime Death, which has also recently appeared in translation. The third novel, Autumn Killing, is out in September, revealing a nice use of seasons to structure the series: spring next, I presume…

You can read an extract from Midwinter Sacrifice here.

Mrs. Peabody awards Midwinter Sacrifice a highly more-ish 4 stars.

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15 thoughts on “#26 / Mons Kallentoft, Midwinter Sacrifice

  1. I agree that this book is a promising debut. It must be annoying for authors when publishers/publicists slap these silly stickers on their books – I have just received one likening Camilla Ceder to S Larsson – hardly! There were things I didn’t like about this (and the next) Kallentoft book but I agree that the character of Malin is compelling, and like you, I enjoyed reading about her personal/domestic dilemmas, etc.

  2. This looks like one for my TBR mountain range, so I’ll add it (sigh). Would that all we had to do was read, turn off phones, close emails, make tea and settle in for hours.
    Just started Tana French’s Broken Harbor. The writing is excellent, the print small, the size long, so I’ll be at it for awhile, but it will be worth it.

  3. I do recommend Tana French’s books. Some readers think they need to be read in order. I don’t think so, although the protagonist is always a detective from the murder squad who appears briefly in the prior book. But one won’t get lost if the books are read out of order.
    This book — Broken Harbor — is so detailed I almost feel like I’m reading P.D. James, almost, but not quite, different personalities, ideas and observations. But smart, Tana French is quite smart, which comes through immediately and so is her protagonist. He leaves no stone unturned.

  4. You may have read this, but The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney is an excellently written book, with some characters that stay with the reader long after the last page is turned.

  5. Oh, those TBR mountains! Mine is always about to erupt into an avalanche!
    I will say the more I read Broken Harbor, the more I appreciate the writing. The dialogues!

  6. Pingback: Not a review of Mons Kallentoft’s MIDWINTER SACRIFICE | Reactions to Reading

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