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THE VIPER by Håkan Östlundh


by Håkan Östlundh

Pub Date: Aug. 7th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-312-64232-7
Publisher: Minotaur

Journalist Östlundh’s first English-language translation provides sad proof that not every crime novel that takes root under the midnight sun blossoms equally brightly.

Corporate consultant Arvid Traneus has been away from home for 10 years, spending longer and longer periods of time doing what he does best: driving his employer’s closest competitor closer to extinction. Only a few days after he returns to the Swedish island of Gotland, it becomes clear that he didn’t stay away long enough when his housecleaner arrives at work to find two blood-soaked bodies. The woman is obviously Arvid’s wife, Kristina, whom he stole away from his cousin Anders many years ago. But the man has been so savagely attacked by a razor-sharp blade—the pathologist counts 30 wounds, half of them bad enough to have individually been the cause of death—that it’s impossible to identify him. Attempting to figure out whether the corpse is that of Arvid or Anders or someone else, Fredrick Bowman and his colleagues in the Visby Police Department question Anders’ father, ex-wife and daughter, as well as Arvid’s son Rickard, a part-time accountant, and his daughter Elin, a university student in Stockholm. They pick up dark hints about the death of Arvid’s eldest child, Stefania, who died 10 years ago at the age of 19. And in the fullness of time, they discover a third corpse that raises as many questions as it answers.

The ruthless patriarch, the dysfunctional family, the mysterious earlier death and the pattern of domestic abuse all suggest that Östlundh has made a close study of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy. But this procedural is altogether slower, less surprising and more routine than its high-flying sinners seem to promise.