Under all the massive weight of circumstance and suffering, the latest case for the sorely tried Tanumshede police is a tale of mothers and their children.
The people of Fjällbacka call Gråskär “Ghost Island” because of long-standing rumors that “those who died out there never leave.” But after the violent death of her overbearing husband, Fredrik, whose status as a wine importer merely provided a cover for his criminal activities, Nathalie Wester retreats there gratefully with her 5-year-old son, Sam, secure in the knowledge that Gråskär is her island, their island. The friends and neighbors in Fjällbacka who have yet to discover Fredrik’s body have little time to worry about Nathalie’s welfare because they have troubles of their own. The town’s finance officer, Mats Sverin, has been shot to death in the front hall of his own apartment, and his ancient status as Nathalie’s high school boyfriend seems a lot less relevant to Patrik Hedström, of the Tanum police, than his recent beating by a gang of toughs in Göteborg, where he’d worked for the Refuge, a battered women’s shelter, before returning to his hometown. And the family of Patrik’s wife, author Erica Falck, has sorrows of its own. Erica’s younger sister, Anna, has been badly injured in a car crash and has lost the child she’d carried nearly to term—a boy she’d hoped would knit her family closer together with that of Dan, her second husband. Now every mother and child on whom Läckberg turns her searching eye, from Mats’ mother, Signe Sverin, to Madeleine, a Refuge client who finds that Copenhagen isn’t far enough from Sweden to flee her tormenter, is withdrawn, isolated, and endangered.
The resolute avoidance of anything that smacks of exposition slows the pace to a crawl and makes it hard to sift the wheat from the chaff but also gives this glum tale a certain majesty.