Kallentoft, Mons - 'Savage Spring' (translated by Neil Smith)
May 2010: the voices of children crying out for their father. Linköping, Sweden, a bright spring morning. There are not yet many people in the city square though some are already seated at the tables on the café terraces. There is a flower stall and a hot-dog seller. Two young girls pester their mother for hot-dogs. A man parks his bicycle and walks across the square. By now the two little girls are running towards the cash-point outside the bank. Their mother stoops to pick up her dropped purse. There is a hissing sound, a bleep; the two little girls turn and cover their ears. Their mother screams as white light and heat bloom across the square. At that moment Detective Malin Fors is standing in the Chapel of the Resurrection, staring at her mother's coffin and holding a red rose. There are not many mourners in the chapel - Malin's father, her daughter Tove, some friends of her parents - nor are there many tears. Malin hears a deep rumbling sound. What was that? As she turns to leave the chapel she sees two little figures hovering near the door, like angels; two little girls with white and fearful faces. The air outside is tinged with the smell of burning. Malin switches on her phone as the mourners get into their cars and it rings immediately. Her boss sounds shaken. A bomb has exploded in the main square, many injuries, possible fatalities. He wants Malin to drive there immediately.
Malin is both fresh from rehab and in the midst of dealing with her mother's sudden death when she is plunged into an investigation of the deaths of two children in a bomb explosion. It is no surprise that terrorism is the first line of enquiry which means that Malin and her partner Zeke are up against the power games of the security agencies. But Malin and Zeke begin to consider the possibility that this was a crime more targeted than they had thought. At the same time, Malin comes face to face with a long-held family secret of her own.
Set in Kallentoft's home town of Linköping, SAVAGE SPRING is the fourth in his crime series featuring Swedish Police Superintendent Malin Fors. The translation by Neil Smith, who also translates the work of Liza Marklund, reads beautifully. Kallentoft introduces the voices of the dead victims into his narrative; they address Malin in her search for the killer and speak to other victims in the narrative. Are Kallentoft's voices describing the workings of Malin's own intuitions? Or are they truly the voices of the dead? This is a device that Alice Sebold uses in LOVELY BONES - and it not to every reader's taste. But I enjoyed LOVELY BONES and I certainly enjoyed SAVAGE SPRING. In addition, it is not just potential killers who are under the microscope in this story. Like debris from the explosion in the square,fragments of parent/child relationships are examined throughout the book: Malin and her recently dead mother, Malin and her daughter Tove, the crime victims and their parents, the crime's perpetrators - all are studied in part through the lens of family relationship. These elements enrich SAVAGE SPRING and turn it from a police procedural into a much deeper story which is precisely what drew me to read Scandinavian crime fiction in the first place.
I am new to Mons Kallentoft's writing, but I am smitten enough to want to retrace the earlier "Malin Fors" books - and look forward to more to come. Whether Kallentoft's themes and devices become overwhelming after several books, I do not know. But I'm happy to set about finding out.
Lynn Harvey, England