Midwinter Sacrifice by Mons Kallentoft

The opening is striking.

A man’s body, naked and mutilated, was found hanging from a tree on a frozen plane.

It was midwinter and snow had been falling heavily, obliterating evidence.

Malin Fors was first on the scene, and she would lead the investigation. She was a bright and capable detective, but she was struggling with life as the single mother of a teenage daughter. I liked her from the start.

The story moved slowly as the investigation moved forward.

It took time to identify the dead man. He had been a loner, and maybe a troubled soul.

It took more time to unravel his complex family background. And his connection to another terrible crime.

One family, ruled over by a formidable matriarch, came into the fore…

The story was a little slow, but I was drawn in.

An omniscient narrator viewed events, sometimes from a distance and sometime focusing on one individual. I liked the style so much that it was a long time before I noticed that Midwinter Sacrifice was written in the present tense, which I usually dislike.

I liked the evocation of time and place too. And the way the author painted life in a small town, where the country is wonderful but jobs and things to do are scarce, where incomers often have so much more than locals.

There is a wrong note: the passages from the perspective of the dead man, his spirit following the investigation. The first one was striking, but the impact lessened and eventually his interventions faded into the background.

And from time to time things got a little slow, details were introduced that really weren’t necessary.

But I did enjoy following Malin and her team. Her colleagues were clearly, but lightly sketched. Malin was the focus, and the details of her life with a bright teenager, her concern about whether she had done the right thing when she parted from her husband, her pondering the possibility of a new partner all rang true and held my interest.

And that made me realise that this is a book for the reader who wants to meet an interesting detective and follow them at work and at home, rather than a reader who wants elaborate mysteries and high drama.

The final denouement was dramatic, but the resolution was unsurprising. What resolution there was – there were loose ends.

But maybe they will be tied up in the next book – this is the first in a series and I liked it more than enough to look out for the next book.

Translated by Neil Smith

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