A killer who professes to enjoy the taste of human flesh goes up against a Swedish cop in this debut thriller.
When Walther Ekman, a 6-foot-5-inch, 270-pound police investigator, receives the first anonymous note, he isn’t sure if it’s a joke or the real thing. In it, the writer professes to an affinity for human flesh and talks about possessing a freezer full of bodies. The writer signs his or her name as “Grendel,” a character from “Beowulf.” Ekman lives in Weltenborg, Sweden, with his wife, Ingbrit, a successful children’s book author. The couple have two well-loved, grown children, and while Ekman continues to work off the guilt of being absent when his partner was killed in the line of duty, he directs investigations into some of the area’s more serious criminal operations. Teaming with psychologist Jarl Karlsson and the police task force he created, Ekman soon realizes that the killer is focusing on him, personally, and sends his wife away to keep her safe. But as the task force closes in on the killer, it appears that, ultimately, Ekman must face off against him/her to discover the reason behind the obsession. A widely traveled attorney, Mauritzson displays an enviable knowledge of Sweden and its everyday life but tends to neglect character development and logic in the process. The characters, weighted down by clunky, often awkward writing, never fully develop. The author tries to make Ekman interesting and quirky by giving him a weight problem and having him pull out his needlepoint when he’s vexed. Although presented as brilliant, Ekman’s police work is mostly defined by a series of random conclusions that make little sense in the context of the investigation. Rather than brilliant, Ekman mostly comes across as a lucky guesser who eats a whole lot of herring.
A tepid addition to the Scandinavian crime-fiction shelf.