Having vanquished a killer with a taste for human flesh (Grendel’s Game, 2015), Chief Superintendent Walther Ekman, of the Weltenborg police, takes on a human-trafficking ring with international roots.
Driven beyond endurance by her regimen of forced sex, kidnapped dental hygienist Lynni Dahlin finally squeezes out a tiny window of her improbable downtown-apartment prison and escapes. Her freedom is short-lived, for she immediately plunges from an icy roof to her death as Ekman and his wife, Ingbritt, an author of children’s books, sit in a restaurant across the street. His dinner ruined, Ekman resolves to get to the bottom of a death that can’t easily be labeled accident, suicide, or murder but is certainly suspicious. So suspicious, in fact, that Ekman’s crew promptly links the Keeper, the trafficker who’s been doing a thriving business supplying captive women from abroad for a clientele willing to pay serious money for submissive sex partners who aren’t just pretending to be terrified, to both a vigorous drug-smuggling operation patriarch Fayyad Joumari is running out of Morocco and a battle for power in the boardroom of the Sodra Sverige Bank. Mauritzson handles the procedural details of the investigation, from the grinding forensics to the obligatory power struggles between Ekman and his colleagues, with authority, and the story moves along briskly from the opening scene. Considering the loathsome nature of the crimes, though, there’s a surprisingly short store of either urgency or moral outrage; a copycat killing only muddles the investigation; and a trip to Morocco intended as the tale’s climax spirals into an unpersuasive mixture of quasi-military abduction and sightseeing.
Snappy but routine work from an author who has yet to establish his distinctive voice amid the crowded field of the Scandinavian procedural.