Translated by Alice Menzies
It’s fitting to end my Nordic reading for January with this Swedish crime novel – for it was published today! You Will Never be Found is the second in a series featuring Police Assistant Eira Sjödin. I very much enjoyed reading the first volume, We Know You Remember last year, set during the summer it was a slowburn murder investigation with well developed main characters. You could read the second book without having read the first, but there are many references to the main crime and its outcomes in the first novel which, although not pertinent to the crimes in the second will make you wish you knew a little more of Eira’s back story. So I offer a guarded yes to being able to read them out of series order.
You Will Never Be Found begins, as so many crime novels do, with the discovery of a dead body. This one is in the locked basement of an abandoned house in the woods, far from the main road. The corpse is missing two fingers, and it seems he starved to death down there, and has to be identified from dental records. No-one local seems to have known him.
He had been reported missing though, by his ex-wife, and it was Eira who had dealt with it. There was an assumption that the former soap actor had gone off with a new girlfriend somewhere. Now it’s a murder investigation and Georg Georgsson from the Violent Crimes unit has been called in. Eira had worked with him on that last case, using her local knowledge to great advantage, and GG as he is known, requests her again on his team.
Meanwhile, at home, Eira is battling with her mother Kerstin whose Alzheimers is now affecting her increasingly strongly.
Eira slumped onto a chair. She was exhausted. They had been at it for over a week now, the painful procedure of whittling down a lifetime’s worth of objects and trying to make them fit into eighteen square meters.
She had managed to convince her mother that she really did need to move into the care home, thirty times, if not more, only for Kerstin to have forgotten by morning–sometimes only a few minutes later. Eira made a mental not of everything her mother had unpacked so that she could repack if that evening, once she was asleep.
As the investigation becomes more intense, Eira will find she has less time to help her mum settle into her new surroundings, but is also disgruntled by her mum always wondering where Magnus is. He is Eira’s brother, and I won’t spoil things from the first novel about him.
Despite her dogged detective work on the case of the dead man Hans Runne, Eira feels she is getting nowhere. GG has been acting slightly oddly too; he’d split up with his old partner, and drinking a bit more than usual. Then he disappears off the radar. Eira and his colleague Silje become increasingly worried. Soon, they have to take matters into their own hands, and the coincidences between GG’s disappearance and that of the dead man start to mount up? Has GG fallen victim to the same perpetrator? It’s up to Eira to use all of her skills of observation and deduction to find him.
While the base of the first novel was quite leisurely, matching the sultry summertime setting, this second outing for Eira Sjödin is certainly more brisk and the race is certainly on once GG vanishes, and with the action beginning in the autumn there is a feel of the changing seasons and the need to get things sewn up before the snow arrives. Eira has grown as a policewoman, and has formidable skills in crosslinking seemingly unconnected facts, aided as always by her local knowledge.
In her personal life though, she has been struggling with effectively becoming the parent to her mother. She is both relieved but also misses her terribly when Kerstin is installed in the care home. She also feels ready for something more than a fling in her love life, once she discovers that August, another policeman she sees occasionally, has proposed to his longterm girlfriend, she needs to let their casual encounters go now. She is reassuringly complicated yet matter of fact in what feels like a very Scandinavian cultural way (apologies if that generalisation offends).
This series is notable for its attention to detail in the policework at the core of the crimes between the covers. The books do have murders, yet they don’t go for the sensational gorefest and staging of crime scenes that we saw in The Chestnut Man. We don’t see the violence, only its results which in this second case is death by starvation and dehydration, which although truly awful is not as shocking in that purely visceral way, and Alsterdal should be applauded for that. Knowing how You Will Never Be Found ends, I can’t wait to see what she has in store next for Eira Sjödin.
Source: Review copy – thank you. Faber hardback, 2nd Feb 2022, 274 pages.
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